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Monday 19th of August 2019
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Concerned with the condition of the species in general

1. On the Evil of Following One's Desires:

(a) Though it is not directly relevant to our topic, it is essential to know that the human soul is by nature and instinct inclined to believe not only in the principle of tawhid (monotheism), but to follow(pursue) all truthful doctrines also. Yet, since the moment of birth and stepping into this universe, man starts growing and developing along with his natural urges and animal desires, except for those who are protected and assisted by God, the Holy Preserver. The latter being exceptions and among the marvels of existence, are not our concern here. We are here concerned with the condition of the species in general. It is evident that at the time of his birth, after passing through certain stages, man is no better than a weak animal and has no distinction over other animals, except for his potentiality of becoming a human being. That is, his humanness is potential, not present. Therefore, man is an animal in actuality in the initial stages of his life in this world. No power but the law of animal nature, which governs through the faculties of Desire (shahwah) and Anger (ghadab), rules over him. And since this marvel of nature is capable(competent) of acquiring all kinds of attributes, in order to cater to the needs of these two faculties he employs another fiendish power, the faculty of imagination (quwwah wahmiyyah) also in this direction through such means as: lying, deceit, hypocrisy, slander and all the other kind of tools. He grows and develops with these three powers, which are the roots of all other vices and fatal sins, and they too develop and flourish within him with age. If he is not influenced by an instructor or guide, after having grown and reached the age of maturity he becomes a beast of uncommon(unaccustomed) rarity which surpasses all other beasts and devils in the above-mentioned qualities, becoming only stronger and more completely devilish and bestial. If he retains the same pattern of growth, he will not do anything except follow the desires of the carnal self and servilely obey these three powers. No sign of Divine knowledge or awareness, moral excellence or righteous deed can be found in him, and the innate light of nature gets stifled within his personality.

Thus all the dimensions of spiritual health-which do not go beyond the three above-mentioned things, i.e., Divine knowledge, moral virtues and righteous deeds-are suppressed by the desires of the carnal self. His servility to sensual inclinations and bestial comforts does not allow any of the manifestations of righteousness to appear in his being. The darkness of sensual desire extinguishes the light of reason and faith. He does not experience the second birth which in reality is the birth of the human being. He continues to exist in the same state and is cut off and removed from God and truth. When he departs from this world in this state and enters the next world, which is the realm of unveiling of reality, he does not find himself in any other form except that of a beast or a devil. With no reminiscence and memory whatsoever of a human existence, he dwells in this state in the abode of eternal darkness, torment and dread, until God Almighty wills what He may. Such is the fate of total servility to sensual desires which causes one to be cut off absolutely from God and righteousness.

It can be concluded from this that the amount of alienation from God is the measure and criterion of the extent of servility to the desires of the self. Conversely, the extent of such alienation can be gauged by means of the extent of such servility. For instance, a person who had espoused these three faculties since the initial stages of his life, having developed and grown with them, if he is influenced and trained(reared) by means of the teachings of the prophets and instructions of scholars and sages, gradually submitting himself to the educative influence of the prophets and theawliya' of God-upon whom be peace-it is possible that the innate potentiality for perfect humanness, which is inherent in his nature, may soon become an actuality. When that happens, all the modes of his inner being a human dimension and the inner devil of the carnal self is converted to faith, as the Prophet of God remarked about himself:

The devil inside me has been converted to faith at my hand.

The bestial self then surrenders itself to the human self in such a way that it carries its rider like a docile and subdued celestial mount on the journey(trip) towards the skies of perfection, becoming aburaq carrying its rider swiftly towards the horizons of the Hereafter, never turning wild again. The powers of Desire and Anger having been subdued by the forces of justice and law (shar'), spiritual peace, balance and justice rule over the domain of man's being, establishing there the Kingdom of God and the rule of righteousness and Divine Law. Nothing that is opposed to justice and truth can occur in it, and the whole kingdom is absolutely freed from all sorts of untruth and injustice.

Therefore, in the same way as the criterion of deprival from truth and righteousness is the pursuit of desire, the criterion of attainment of truth and achievement of righteousness is submission to reason and Divine Law. In between these two extremities, that is, total servility to desire and total subservience to reason, are an infinite number of stages so that every step towards desire is a step away from righteousness. With every such step the reality is further hidden behind misty veils and the lights of human excellence and the secrets of human existence grow dimmer. And, contrarily, every step that is taken away from desire is instrumental to the same extent in removing the veils and in brightening the gleams of Divine light in the domain of the inner being.

(b) The Qur'an and Hadith on the Evil of Submission to Desire:

Denouncing submission to desires, God Almighty says in the Quran


... And follow not desire lest it lead thee astray from the way of God. (38:26)

... And who is further astray than he who follows his desire without guidance from God? (28:50)

And in a tradition of al-Kafi from al-'Imam al-Baqir (A), the Imam is reported to have said:

The Prophet (S) said, "God Almighty said: `By My Honour, My Glory, My Greatness, My Light, My Loftiness, and by the Highness of My Station! When My slave gives preference to his desire over My wish, I put his affairs into confusion, make his life baffling in this world and his heart preoccupied with the world, although I do not give him anything of it except what I have preordained for him. And by My Honour, My Glory, My Greatness, My Light, My Loftiness and by the Highness of My Station! If My slave prefers My wish to his desire, My angels protect him, the heavens and the earth guarantee(ensure) his sustenance, and I look after his trade and bring the world to him though it should be reluctant and recalcitrant. [2]

This tradition is a very authentic one, whose text and wording bear testimony to its pure origin, that its source is no other than God Almighty, the Fountainhead of all knowledge, though its chain of transmission may be a weak one, and to discuss this matter further is not possible here. There is another tradition reported from Amir al Mu'minin (A), which is different from the one we have expounded:



I am apprehensive for you concerning two things: Submission to desire and entertaining of endless hope. [3]

In al-Kafi al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) is reported to have said:

Be apprehensive of your desires in the same way as you are apprehensive of your enemies. For there is no greater enemy for human beings than their own desires and what their tongues reap. [4]

My dear, remember that desires are endless and ever insatiable. If man takes one step in following them, he will be bound to take a few more. If he submits to one of the desires, he will soon be forced to yield to a number of them. If you open one door to the desires of the self, you will soon be forced to open several other doors to them. Thus a single act of submission will expose you to a number of vices following it and through them you will fall victim to a thousand abominations, until, God forbid, all the roads to God are closed to you, as stated by God Almighty in the Holy Book. That is why the Commander of the Believers (A), the Wali al-'Amr and the spiritual master and instructor of mankind, who was assigned the task of guiding(maneuvering) the human family, has expressed so much concern and apprehension on account of it. Rather, the Holy Prophet (S) and all the Imams (A) are anxious lest the tree of nubuwwah (prophethood) and wilayah - of which the believers are the leaves- should shed its foliage and become as if autumn stricken. Look what the Prophet (S) has said:


Marry and procreate, for indeed I shall be proud of you over other nations, even though it should be on account of an aborted foetus. [6]

Obviously, if man happens to stand on such a dangerous path as this, where it is feared that he may fall over(toppled) the precipice of annihilation, being disowned by his real father-the Holy Prophet (S), who is a mercy for all the worlds-having caused his indignance, what a great misfortune it would be and what disasters and woes it would involve? Thus if you know the Holy Prophet (S) and love the Master of the Faithful (A) and befriend their pure progeny, relieve their blessed hearts from their fear, anguish and uncertainty on your account. In a verse of the SuratHud of the Quran the Prophet (S) is addressed thus

So be steady as thou hast been commanded, thou and those who have turned (unto Allah) with thee .... (11:112)

And the Prophet (S) is reported to have said:

The Surat Hud caused my hair to turn grey on account of this verse of it. [6]

Shaykh Shahabadi, the accomplished `Arif-may my soul be ransomed for him-has said:

Although the same verse occurs in the Surat al-Shura-though without the phrase (`and those who have turned with thee')-the reason that the Prophet (S) has made special mention of the Surat Hudis that in it God Almighty has demanded from the Prophet (S) the steadiness of his ummah also. The Prophet (S) feared that this task might not be carried out, otherwise he himself had the steadiness, or, rather, he was in fact the very incarnation of justice and righteousness.

So, my brother, if you consider yourself one of the followers of that holy personage and a participant of his mission, come and don't be an embarrassment to him in its fulfilment on account of your ugly, vicious deeds. Think yourself that if one of your children or your kinsmen does something odious or improper by your norms, how ashamed you feel in front of others on their account! And you know that the Prophet of God (S) and Amir al-Mu'minin (A) are the true fathers of the ummah, for in the Prophet's own words:

I and 'Ali are the two fathers of this ummah. [7]

If we are taken into the presence of the Almighty and are called to account in front of them, and should the record of our deeds reflect nothing except evil and odiousness, it would be very hard upon them, for they would feel ashamed in front of the angels and prophets of God. What a great injustice it would be! What a catastrophe we shall have invited for ourselves and what treatment will be meted out to us by God Almighty?

So, O unjust and ignorant man who have not only done injustice to yourself but are guilty of injustice to your benefactors, who laid down their lives and sacrificed their worldly possessions and comforts of life for the sake of your guidance, who were assassinated after undergoing the hardest sufferings and the harshest tortures and whose women and children were taken captive for the sake of your guidance and your deliverance, should you, instead of being grateful to them for their merciful efforts, be guilty of such a flagrant injustice and imagine that you have been unjust to yourself alone? Wake up for a while from this deep slumber and be a little ashamed of yourself. Don't allow yourself to commit the same inequities that were committed by the enemies of the Din. You, who claim to be a friend, do not be unjust, for the acts of injustice committed by a friend and the one who claims to be a friend are more grievous and odio.



  Numerousness of Desires

It should be remembered that the desires of the carnal self are numerous and of diverse kinds, varying according to their intensity as well as the desired object. Sometimes they are so subtle that one is not aware of them as suspect wiles of Satan and of the self, unless he is made conscious and waken up. With all their variety(assortment), all of them work together in obstructing people from the Divine path and deviating them from it. Their grades are various. There are the victims of desire who take gold and wealth and the like to be their god; there are others about whom Almighty God informs us in these words:

Hast thou seen him who has taken his desire (hawa) to be his god? (25:43)

Again, there are those who, according to the holy tradition under discussion, are alienated from God by following the desires of the self and the fabrications of the Devil, in the form of false creeds, corrupt norms or something else. There are the perpetrators of mortal and major or minor and venial sins who are kept from the path of God in a measure proportional to the degree of their transgressions. Then there are the followers of legitimate pleasures and desires who, on account of their overindulgence in them, are kept back from treading the Divine path in a different way. There are the devout given to prayers and formal rites, which are aimed to secure a good life in the Hereafter or to satisfy some worldly purpose or are meant to secure higher spiritual stations or to avoid spiritual decline, who are prevented from the path of God in a different way. There are the practitioners of ethics devoted to purification of the soul and spiritual disciplining for the sake of attaining self control or reaching the paradise of moral excellence, who are kept from God and righteousness in their own manner. There are the practitioners of `irfan, the wayfarers of the Path, the seekers of ecstasies and of mystic stations and states, who have no other purpose except His vision and His vicinity, yet whose vision is obstructed in a different way and are kept from receiving the special illuminations.

Besides, there are other stages whose description is not possible here. Thus it is necessary for every individual, in accordance with the category to which he belongs, to examine his own condition and purge himself of the desires of the self in order not to be kept from the path of righteousness and of truth, so that the doors of compassion and benevolence are opened to him, whatever his station and stage, and indeed God is the Lord of guidance: 

       Evil of Endless Hopes:

This discussion also consists of two sections:

(a) On the Endlessness of Hopes:

Remember that the first and foremost step towards authentic humanness is that of awareness and awakening (yaqzah), as mentioned by the leading mystics (mashayiq) concerning the stages of wayfaring. There are ten stages in this step, as enumerated by the great shaykh Shahabadi, which we are not in a position to elaborate here. However, it is essential to mention here that unless man does not wake up to the fact that he is a traveller with an unescapable journey lying ahead and a destination towards which he must move, he will not muster the resolution necessary to reach his goal. Each of these matters needs an elaboration from which we must abstain for brevity's sake. However, it is enough to say that one of the biggest obstacles in the way of the awakening that leads one to forget his destination and neglect his journey and deadens his will and resolution is the feeling that there is plenty of time for the journey, that if one does not set out today he may do it tomorrow, if not this month then the next and so on. Such a state of extended and outstretched hope, together with a false assurance of unlimited life and unbounded availability of time, make man oblivious of his ultimate goal, the Hereafter, and prevent him from preparing for the unavoidable journey and securing provisions for it, ultimately leading him to completely forget the Hereafter and his goal. May God save us from the state in which one who has a long and perilous journey before him and is given a limited time in which to procure the provisions and dire necessities of the way, does not possess anything having forgotten both about the journey and his destination. It is obvious that if such a state of neglect befalls one, he will fail to procure the necessary provisions for his way, being helpless and at a loss at the time of departure. Such a man will decay on his way and his journey will not take him to his desired destination.

(b) Provisions for the Long Journey Ahead:

And so, my dear, remember that you have a perilous journey ahead, for which the provisions of sound knowledge and fruitful(prolific) action are needed. The time of departure is unknown. Possibly, there is little time and opportunity left. No one knows when the call for departure will come and one would be forced to depart. This prolonging of hope by you and me arises from self love and is the most masterly of the guiles of the accursed Satan. Through it he distracts our attention from the Hereafter and keeps us from attending to its affairs. And with the perils of the journey and the obstacles in the way of preparing for it, if we fail to repent or to return to God and if we fail to procure provisions for the journey, the appointed call shall come unexpectedly and send us unprepared and unprovided on the way, without any store of righteous deeds and useful knowledge which together make up the provisions of the Hereafterly journey.

For even if we have performed good deeds, they are not pure and untainted. A thousand contaminations, each of which is enough to make them unacceptable to God, afflict them. If we acquired any knowledge, it was futile and fruitless for us, our learning being either nonsensical and absurd or itself a big impediment in the path of the Hereafter. Had the deeds that we have done and the knowledge that we have learnt been beneficial, they should have left some mark on us who have been in their pursuit for years and should have transformed our habits and morals. What went muddled(wrong) that our forty or fifty years' labour has produced an opposite result and has hardened our hearts, harder even than flint? What did we achieve from salat, which is the mi'raj of a mu'min? Where is that fear of God which is the outcome of true knowledge? God forbid, if we are called to depart from this world in this present state of ours, there are many a lasting disappointment and remorse in store for us!

Therefore, if obliviousness of the Hereafter caused by endless hope is something on account of which the greatest Wali of God, Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (A) is concerned for us, he is justified; for he knows as to how perilous a journey awaits us and that with such a journey in view no one should ever be complacent even for a while. At all times, one should be busy, without a moment of rest, in gathering the provisions for the Hereafterly journey. If one becomes oblivious of that world or considers it a mere dream, as if that world did not exist and there was no journey to be undertaken, one cannot imagine the calamities(tragedies) that one will have to face and the misfortunes that are in store for him.

It would do us much good if we think for a while about the general state of mind of the Prophet (S) and of Amir al-Mu'minin (A) who were the best of God's creatures and free from error, lapse or forgetfulness-in order to understand our own state in relation to theirs. Their cognition of the hardships and perils of the journey had made them renounce ease and rest, while our ignorance has bred forgetfulness in us. The Seal of the Prophets (S) subjected himself to such austerities and strenuously stood in prayer before his Lord for such lengthy hours that his blessed feet became swollen and the following verse was sent down to him by the Most Exalted:

Ta Ha. We have not sent down the Quran upon thee to cause thee distress. (20:1, 2)

The state of Amir al-Mu'minin during prayers and his fear of God Almighty are also well known.

Hence, we should know that the journey is full of perils and this spell of obliviousness and forgetfulness of ours is nothing except a ruse of the Devil and a guile of our own self. These endless hopes and unlimited expectations are the biggest snares of Iblis and the most artful of his ruses. So wake up from this sleep and remember that you are a traveller with goal and purpose. Your destination is the next world and you will be forced to leave this world ultimately. If you are prepared to set out on this journey and have procured the provisions needed, you will not be rendered helpless or stranded on this journey. Otherwise you will find yourself in a distress which knows no relief, a wretchedness that is not followed by felicity, a humiliation that will last and never be followed by honour, a poverty that does not terminate in abundance, a torment that is not followed by comfort, a fire that never cools down, and a regret and shame which knows no end.

My dear, look what the Commander of the Faithful (A) says, in Du`a Kumayl, in his supplications to the Almighty:

(My Lord)... You know my frailness before a little of the afflictions and torments of this world and before the kind of calamities that affect its inhabitants, though such afflictions and adversities are transitory and short-lived. And how shall I endure the afflictions of the Hereafter and the severity of its calamities, which are enduring, perpetual and unabating on its inhabitants, since they are nothing other than Your wrath, Your retribution and Your displeasure, which neither the heavens nor the earth can bear.

A torment which the heavens and earth cannot stand has been reserved for you, and it is not enough to awaken you from your deepening slumber and your obliviousness increases day by day!

O slumberous heart! Awake and arise! Get ready for the journey to the Hereafter! The call of the caravan's departure has been sounded and all around there is the clamour of those who depart and take leave. The agents of `Izra'il (the angel of death) are at work and they are driving you every moment nearer and nearer to the gates of the Hereafter and yet you are neglectful, unmindful and ignorant!

O God, I implore Thee to save me from the house of illusion and the abode of delirium and help me return to the abode of joy. Grant me the ability and preparedness to die before such an opportunity is lost.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 336.

[2]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 335.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Al-Hurr al-Amili, Wasai'il al-Shi'ah, Bab 1, hadith 2.

[6]Al-Tabarsi, Majma` al-bayan, vol. 3.

[7]. Al-Amini, al-Ghadir, vol. 3, p. 100.

 

 

... Muhammad ibn Ya'qub (al-Kulayni), from Muhammad ibn Yahya, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from Ibn Mahbub, from' Ali ibn Ri'ab, from Zurarah, who said: "I asked Abu `Abd Allah (al-'Imam al Sadiq) (A) regarding the words of God, `God's creation (fitrah) upon which He originated mankind' (30:30). The Imam(A) answered: `He originated mankind upon tawhid."' [1]

Exposition:

According to lexicographers and exegetes, fatr means creation. According to al-Sihah (Arabic dictionary compiled by al-Jawhari), the word al-fitrah means al-khilqah, i.e. creation. Also, possibly, the word may have been derived from fatr in the sense of splitting(crack) and tearing; for creation, in a sense, tears the curtains of non-being and the veils of the hidden. The phrase iftar al sa'im,used for the breaking of the fast, also has a similar meaning, for iftar severs the continuity of the fast. This much is sufficient here, for lexical consideration is not our purpose here.

The tradition refers to the following verse of the Quran:

So set thy face to the Din, as a man of pure Faith-God's fitrah upon which He originated mankind. There is no changing God's creation. That is the right Din, but most men know it not. (30:30)

God willing, we shall discuss this fitrah, its characteristics, and the manner in which human nature is based on the principle of tawhid, dividing our discourse in a number of sections.

1. The Meaning of Fitrah:

It should be known that fitrat Allah, as the condition and state in which God fashioned mankind, refers to the essential condition of their existence. It is something which is present in the very essence of their creation and is inextricably kneaded into the very substance of their nature. God'sfitrah is one of His favours with which He has endowed the human species out of all creatures. Other creatures are either altogether without these attributes, or have been endowed with a weaker degree of them. It should be remembered that though in this tradition, as in some other ahadith, the wordfitrah is interpreted as a natural inclination towards tawhid, but this amounts to mentioning one from among a host of correlatives, or to describing the most significant(considerable) component of something. This is characteristic of the expositions and interpretations handed down from the Imams(A). Often they cite one of the several meanings that apply to a verse in accordance with the propriety of a context and occasion, leading ignorant persons to imagine that there is a contradiction (between the different interpretations). A proof of that is the present case. In the above-mentioned verse, Din, which is equated to fitrat Allah, is inclusive of the doctrine of tawhid and other religious teachings as well. In the sahih tradition of 'Abd Allah ibn Sinan, "fitrah" here has been interpreted as al-'Islam; in the hasan hadith narrated by Zurarah from Abu Ja'far (al-'Imam al-Baqir)(A) it is defined as ma'ri fah (knowledge of God); and in the well-known hadith:

(Every child is born on the fitrah), fitrah is placed in opposition to tahawwud (being a Jew), tanassur(being a Christian), and tamajjus (being a Zoroastrian). From this it becomes obvious that fitrahdoes not exclusively mean tawhid; rather it includes all the true teachings which God Almighty has ingrained in the nature of His slaves.

The Laws of Human Nature:

We know that there is not a single soul outside the laws of nature, for they are the essential conditions of human existence and the elemental forms which are innate to human nature and creation. No one escapes them; the ignorant and the learned, the barbarian and the civilized, the dwellers of cities and the inhabitants of deserts-all share it equally. None of the factors, such as diversity of customs, religious traditions and ways, can affect them or interfere with their working. The differences of geographical region, climate, association, opinion, which affect everything- even rational verities - and create disparity and diversity of all sorts, have no effect whatsoever on the essentials of nature. The disparity of intelligence and the strength and weakness of understanding do not affect it. Anything that is not such, is not a law of nature and it should be excluded from the realm of nature. Hence the ayah states: ,`He originated man kind in accordance with it', that is, no specific group or race is meant. The verse further says: `There is no changing God's creation'. It is not changed by anything, like other factors which change according to habit and custom and other such things.

But what is astonishing(startling) is that in spite of being uniform regarding their natural instincts, from the beginning of the world until the present, people have been generally ignorant of the uniformity of their nature. They imagine that it varies, unless they are made aware of its uniform and unchangeable quality. It is only then that they can understand that there has been unity despite apparent disparity. God willing, we will clarify this point further at a later stage. However the verse refers to this point when it says: (`But most men know it not'.)

From what has been said till now, it may be inferred that the laws of nature are the most self-evident of all self-evident truths. Because amongst all rational principles there does not exist such a law which is not contradicted even by a single individual, and such a thing is the most evident of logical necessities and the most self-evident of all self-evident realities. And all those things that are its necessary corollaries should also be among the most evident of logical necessities. Thus, if the doctrine of tawhid, or other related doctrines, are from among the laws of nature and one of its prerequisites, it should be the most manifest of all self-evident truths and the most evident of manifest necessities, but strangely enough: Most men know not!

The Innateness of Religious Truths:

Every exegete of the Quran, Sunni or Shi'i, has written about the innateness of Din or tawhid in his own specific way. Here we shall not base our discussion on their opinions. Rather, we shall describe the original ideas of the accomplished `arif, Shaykh Shahabadi-may his shadow be everlasting-who was unique in this field, although some of the ideas can be found in the form of allusions in the writings(Inscriptions) of researchers in the field of `irfan, and some of them have occurred to this incapable writer.

Let it be known that among God-given instincts one is the belief in the existence of the Sacred and Sublime Source of everything; the second is the belief in It's Unity, i.e. tawhid; the third is the innate belief that that Sacred Being encompasses all perfection; the fourth is the instinctive belief in the Day of Resurrection; and the fifth is the innate faith in nubuwwah (prophethood); the sixth is the instinctive belief in the existence of angels, of holy spirits, in the revelation of scriptures and the path of Divine guidance. Some of the above-mentioned are laws of nature and some others are their necessary corollaries. The faith in God, the belief in angels, the belief in the revelation of Scriptures, in God-sent Apostles, in the Day of Resurrection, and in the Din-which is firm, stable and straight-is a truth which underlines the entire life of the human species. We shall discuss here some of them which are relevant to the hadith under consideration, and beseech the Almighty's assistance in this regard.

1. Man's Love of Perfection:

To understand that the belief in the existence of the Sublime and Supreme Source is innate in human nature, one needs to understand certain preliminaries. One of the qualities innate in human nature is the love and yearning for perfection. It is something which pervades the entire chain of humanity's generations and not a single individual in the entire human species can be found without it. No custom or tradition, religious or legal institution can transform or obstruct this tendency. The natural inclination to seek perfection is so universal that if all the eras of human existence are probed and each of human individuals, no matter to what group or nation he may belong, is questioned, a love of perfection will be found to be part of his nature and his heart will be found to be pulled(jerked) towards it. In all the pauses and activities, in all the efforts, endeavours and earnest toils which engage the energies of the individuals of this species in various fields of life, it is the love of perfection which drives them onwards. Although people vary regarding their identification and understanding of perfection, and although there is the greatest conceivable variance in what they regard as perfect and whom they regard as the beloved, yet each of them, having perceived his beloved in something and deeming it his ideal; turns his attention towards it. He serves it with all his heart and with the utmost love of which he is capable. Whatever the field(enclosure) to which he belongs and whatever the object of his love, since he identifies perfection with it, he concentrates his attention upon it. In the same manner, the men of science and crafts, each of them seeks what he considers as perfection and loves what appears to him as the beloved. The same is true of the other-worldly and of those who give themselves up to reflection and meditation.

In brief, all of them are turned towards perfection, and since they see it in a real or imaginary object, they love it earnestly. But it should be remembered that in spite of it all, their infatuation and obsession is really not for those ideals or objects which they imagine to be their beloved. The object of their love and the ka'bah of their hopes is not that which they have fancied. For, if he were to ponder over his nature, he will realize that to whatever object his heart is devoted, if he attains something superior to it his heart turns away from the original ideal and towards another, a higher one. And when he attains that higher one, he turns towards one which is higher and more perfect, and the fire of eagerness grows more intense day by day and his heart does not settle down at any one of the stages. For example, if you are in love with physical beauty and see it in some beauty, your heart drives you towards her abode and alley. But if you happen to see a face more beautiful, and you find it to be so, you will inevitably turn your attention towards it, or, at least, both of them will now hold your attention, and the fire of your passion will not cool down. Your condition is that of the man who said, "I haven't a penny but would buy the entire estate," and you would desire to possess every beauty. Not only this, even a probability may excite your eagerness. If you have an inkling that there is someone prettier in a certain place, your heart may take you on a journey to that place and your state of mind will be like him who said: "Though in the midst of the crowd, my heart is somewhere else." Mere wish will add to your eagerness. If you listen to the descriptions of Paradise and about the enticing beauties therein, even though, God forbid, you should be a disbeliever in it, nevertheless, your natural instinct will make you say, " O that such a heaven did exist and such lovely dames would fall to my share."

In the same manner, a man who seeks perfection in domination, power and expansion of territories and develops eagerness for such things, if he is given the possession of one country, he will turn towards another; when that too comes under his domination, he will desire for some more territory. If he is given a quarter of the earth, he will try to own the remaining ones also. Rather, the intensity of his desire grows more and more, and if the whole planet is brought under his domination, he will contemplate about the possibility of expanding it to other spheres of the cosmos as well. His heart views the celestial spheres with the desire of conquest: "O that man could fly towards those worlds, that I could annex them to my empire." Similar is the case of men of science and craft and that of the entire human species. Whatever the activity and field of their concern, their eagerness grows with achievement and is directed towards the higher degrees of perfection. The more they progress and advance, the more their eagerness grows for the higher degrees of perfection; its fire is never extinguished and becomes more intense every day.

Thus, this light of nature guides us to the fact that the hearts of all the members of human species, from the people inhabiting far-flung regions of the world to the dwellers of civilized countries, from believers in materialism to the followers of various religious creeds, all yearn by nature and from the core of their hearts to attain immaculate perfection. They long for an absolute beauty and perfection which has no defect, for a knowledge that has no trace of ignorance in it, for a power acid domination that is not accompanied with impotence and weakness, for a life that has no death, and, ultimately, the Absolute Perfection that is the beloved of everyone. All the existents and the entire human species declare unanimously with one heart and in eloquent and lucid terms: We are lovers of Absolute Perfection; we are enamoured to Absolute Beauty and Majesty; we are in search of Absolute Knowledge and Absolute Power.

Does anyone know of any being in the entire realm of existence, or in the spheres of fancy and imagination, or in the realm of rational abstractions, which possesses the attributes of absolute perfection and absolute beauty, except the Sacred Essence of the Supreme Majestic Source of the cosmos? Does anybody know of any absolute, immaculate beauty, except that of the Absolute Beloved?

O wanderers of the valley of regret! O the lost ones in the wilderness of error! Rather, O lovers of the lamp of Absolute Beauty! O Seekers of the immaculate and the eternal Beloved! Look again into the book of your nature; turn the pages of the book of your being. Look, the pen of Divine creation has written into it:

I have turned my face towards Him who created the heavens and the earth ....

... God's nature upon which He originated mankind. (6:79; 30:30)

That nature is innate attention to the Absolute Beloved, and it is unchanging: It is a nature which seeks the knowledge (ma`rifah) of God. How long will you lavish this natural God-gifted love and this trust of God on this or that beloved on account of your misconceived ideas? If the object of your love were these imperfect beauties and these finite perfections, then why doesn't the fire of your love subside after reaching them and why does the flame of your love grow fiercer on attaining them? Now wake up from the slumber, receive the glad tiding, and rejoice that you have a beloved who has no decline, no defect, no infirmity. The Light you seek is one whose brilliance illuminates the Universe:

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth .... (24:35)

Your Beloved is such that He encompasses everything

Thus, this actual love of yours seeks the Actual Beloved. It cannot be an imaginary beloved of your fancy, since every imaginary thing is imperfect, and your nature yearns for perfection. Thus an actual lover and an actual love is not possible without an actual beloved. And there is no other beloved except the Perfect Being, towards whom human nature is directed. Hence the prerequisite for the love of absolute perfection is the existence of the Absolutely Perfect Being. And, as mentioned earlier, the laws of nature and their necessary correlatives are the clearest, the most self-evident and the most obvious of prepositions. Hence it has been said:

... Can there be doubt concerning God the Creator of the heavens and the earth?! (14:10) 

2. The Innateness of Divine Attributes:

That the belief in the unity of the Divine Essence is innate and so is the belief that the Divine Being encompasses all the attributes of perfection became known in the above section; here we shall prove this in a different manner.

It should be known to you that one of the characteristics of the nature upon which God has fashioned mankind is a loathing for imperfection. Man is by nature averse to everything he perceives as defective and faulty.

Thus imperfection and defectiveness are repulsive to human nature, for it is inclined towards absolute perfection. Now, the pole of attraction of human nature should be one and unique, because everything capable of plurality and everything made up of parts is imperfect and defective. Plurality is always associate with finitude, (which is a defect), and everything that is defective is repelled by human nature, which is not attracted towards it. The presence of these two natures-that is, the nature of attraction towards perfection and the nature of repulsion towards defectiveness-not only posits the principle of tawhid, it also pits that the Being of God encompasses every perfection and that It is free from every defect. The blessed Surat al-Tawhid, which is about the Being of God, the Exalted and the Supreme, relates, in the words of our revered Shaykh--may my soul be his ransom-to the Ipseity of the Absolute, which is the pole of attraction of the human nature. At the outset of the surah, it is referred to as huwa (He), followed by the six attributes mentioned in the following verses. Since His sacred Essence has an absolute ipseity (huwiyyah) (an absolute ipseity must be absolutely perfect; otherwise it is a finite ipseity), the Divine Being encompasses all perfections. `Allah', (which follows the pronoun huwa in the surah), shows that in spite of encompassing all perfections, It is simple (basit); otherwise It would not have an absolute ipseity . Thus, He is ahad (unique) and His ahadiyyah (uniqueness) necessitates His wahidiyyah (oneness). And since absolute ipseity includes all perfections and is free from all defects-which originate in finite ipseity He is Samad (Eternal, the End, Goal and Refuge of every thing) and is not vacuous. On account of His being absolute ipseity, nothing is begotten or separated from Him, nor is He Himself separated from anything. He is lam yalid wa lam yulad, i.e. He begetteth not, nor was begotten; rather, He is the Source of everything and the End to which all existents return without having separated from Him, for separation necessitates defectiveness. Absolute Ipseity has no equal either, since absolute perfection precludes recurrence. Thus, the blessed Surat al-Tawhid is about the laws of human nature and is concerned with the attributes of the Divine Being.

3. Innateness of-the Belief in Resurrection:

Here we shall discuss the innateness of the belief in Resurrection (al-ma'ad) as something ingrained in human nature. Like the other beliefs dealt with in the previous sections, it can be proved in a number of ways. Here we shall mention only some of them.

Know that one of the God-given innate tendencies that are ingrained in the nature of the entire human species is the love of comfort. If all the epochs of human existence--from civilized existence to barbarian subsistence, from eras of piety to that of pagan rebellion-are studied and if all the different kinds of individuals-from the learned to the ignorant, from the noble to the mean, and from the savage to the urbanized-are questioned as to the aim of all their various attachments and pursuits and their diverse desires, and if they are asked about the purpose of their hardships and labours, all will unanimously answer in one voice with the unambiguous tongue of nature that whatever we desire is for the sake of our comfort. They will say that the ultimate goal and the purpose underlying all their aspirations and hopes is absolute comfort, untainted with labour, toil and distress. Since such a toilless, painless comfort is the goal of all, everyone imagines that lost comfort to lie in some thing and develops an interest in every such thing which he believes to be associated with that desired goal. This, in spite of the fact that such an absolute comfort is not to be found in any part of this world of ephemeral existence, nor is such an undisturbed peace and rest possible here. All the bounties and blessings of this world are mixed with tiresome effort and exhausting toil. All the pleasures of the world are surrounded with unnerving pains. Pain and agony, anguish and sorrow, anxiety ,worry and grief prevail all over the world. Throughout the entire history of human existence, not a single individual is to be seen whose pains and sufferings are equal to his comforts and whose joys and blessings are equal to his sorrows, distresses and toils, let alone the possession of untainted reassurance and undisturbed rest.

Accordingly, the ultimate human goal is not to be found in this world, and no natural, inherent and actual love-and that too a love which pervades the entire species-is possible without the existence of an actual beloved. Hence, there should exist such a world in the realm of existence where comforts will not be adulterated with labour and pain, whose ease and repose be absolute and pure, unmixed by pain, whose joys should be pure, unmarred by grief and suffering. That world is the House of Divine bounty (dar al-na`im), the world of the manifestation of His magnanimity.

That world can also be posited by means of the freedom-loving nature of man and the insistence of the human will, which are ingrained in the nature of every human individual. Since the material forces of this world and the conditions therein, with its impediments and restrictions, are opposed to human freedom and contrary to the human will, there should be a world in the realm of existence where man's will can be influential and whose material forces are not opposed to the dictates of the human will. Man would be there a free actor, accomplishing the aspirations of his sovereign will, a sovereignty which is demanded by his nature. Thus the aspects of the innate love of comfort and love of freedom are two natural tendencies that have been embedded by God in the unchanging nature of the human being. They are the two wings with which man flies towards the higher kingdom of heaven and into the Nearness of God.

There are certain other matters which are not of immediate relevance to these pages. There are other natural tendencies in man which posit other Divine teachings, such as the affirmation of prophethood, the raising of Divine apostles and the descent of the scriptures, and so on. Each of the above-mentioned natural tendencies proves all the sacred doctrines, but we have cramped our discussion in order not to digress much from the main topic, which is exposition of the glorious tradition at hand. Hitherto our discussion showed that the knowledge of the Source, Its Perfection and Unity, and that of the Hereafter is innate in human nature. And all praise is God's.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi (Akhundi), II, 12, hadith No.2.

 

 

...Muhammad ibn Ya`qub (al-Kulayni), from `Ali ibn Ibrahim, from his father, from al-Nawfali, from al-Sakuni, from Abu 'Abd Allah (al-'Imam al Sadiq) (A) that he said: "Amir al-Mu'minin (A) used to say: `Arouse your heart to contemplation; keep your side clear off the night; and be heedful towards your Lord." [1]

Exposition:

The phrase kana yaqul (used to say) has a meaning different from qala (said) or yaqul (says), as it indicates continuation and perpetuation. It shows that Amir al-Mu'minin (A) repeatedly used to utter these words. The word tanabbuh means `to arouse', 'to warn', `to call attention to', and 'to awaken from sleep.' Here all of these meanings are suitable(apt), for the hearts are in a state of neglectfulness and sleep prior to contemplation, and they come out of this state by means of it. Sleep and awakening, unconsciousness and consciousness are different for the realm of the body and the kingdom of the soul. Many a time the outward eye is awake, the corporeal personality is conscious(alert) but the inner eye and the inward vision is deep asleep, and the spiritual regions and the domain of the soul are heedless and unconscious. Tafakkur (contemplation, intellection) is the activity of the intellect. It is the reordering of known matters for the purpose of reaching hitherto unknown conclusions. It includes the kind of contemplation which is one of the characteristics of mystics and wayfarers of the Path. Khwajah `Abd Allah al-'Ansari has described it in these words:

Know that contemplation is the inquisitive groping of the inner vision for attaining the coveted end.[2]

It is obvious that ma`rifah (gnosis) is the desired object of the heart. Accordingly, in this hadith also contemplation has a specific sense concerned with the heart and its life.

What is Heart?

There are various applications and denotations of the word `heart'. For physicians and the common people it is a tiny piece(slice) of flesh, whose contractions and expansions cause the flow(downpour) of blood through arteries and veins, which generates a subtle elan vital. The philosophers (hukama)use(utilize) it for a certain seat of the psyche (nafs). The `urafa' assign to it grades (maratib) and stages (maqamat), and to go into their details is not our concern here. In the Holy Quran and the ahadith, it has been used both in its general as well as its particular senses in different places.

In the verse `...the hearts reached to the throats ' (33:10), `heart' is used in the same sense as used by physicians. And in "They have hearts wherewith they understand not, and they have eyes wherewith they see not' (7:179), it is used in the sense used by the philosophers. And in `Therein verily is a reminder for him who hath a heart, or giveth ear with full intelligence' (50:37), `heart' is used in the same sense as used by the `urafa'.

In the tradition, tafakkur is used in the sense as is generally used by hukama', but the `heart' as meant by `urafa' has no relation to tafakkur, especially on its certain levels, as those who are familiar with their terminology know well.

In the statement: gives the sense of bu'd, to keep away, to shun, and such is its-meaning in as given by al-Sihah. `Night', here, has been used allegorically for `bed'... and as discussed in detail by the usuli faqih Aqa Shaykh Rida Isfahani in Jaliyyat al-hal , the avoiding of `night' refers to getting up from the bed for night prayers ....God willing, we shall discuss the holy tradition in a number of sections.

The Merits of Contemplation:

It should be known that there is a great merit in contemplation. Contemplation is the key to the doors of ma'rifah and to the treasure chests of knowledge and excellence. It is the necessary and the surest first step on the path of genuine humanness. It has been highly commended and glorified by the Glorious Quran and in traditions, and one who abandons it has been censured and denounced.

In al-Kafi it is reported from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that:

The best form of worship is to contemplate about God and His Power. [3]

In another hadith, it is stated that an hour's contemplation is better than a night's worship.' [4] And according to a Prophetic tradition, the contemplation of an hour is better than a year's worship. In another tradition it is stated that an hour's contemplation is better than sixty years of worship (according to another hadith, seventy years). And some traditionists and fuqaha' have even mentioned it as being better than a thousand years of worship. In any case, there are different grades and levels of contemplation, and every grade gives certain results and consequences. Here we shall mention a few of them.

1. The first kind of contemplation is about God, His Names, Attributes and His Perfections, the result of which is the knowledge of His existence and His irradiations (tajalliyat) from which the archetypes(ayan) and the manifestations (mazahir) emerge. And this is the most superior level of contemplation which yields the sublimest of the kinds of knowledge, and the firmest of the arguments (burhan); for thinking about the essence of the Cause and meditating on the Absolute Cause imparts knowledge about Him and the understanding of the effects. Such is the outline of the revelations on the hearts of the Truthful (siddiqun), and it is for this reason that it is called burhan al-siddiqin, the Proof of the Truthful; since the Truthful observe the Names and the Attributes, and view the first essences (a`yan) and manifestations (mazahir) in the mirror of the Names through the witness of the Essence. The reason, however, that this type of proof is called burhan al-siddiqin is that if a Truthful one (siddiq) wishes to set forth his observations in the form of a proof and give his gnostic, intuitive experience the apparel of words, it would appear in this form; not that anyone who gains the knowledge of the Essence and its irradiations through this proof becomes one of the Truthful, or that the knowledge of the Truthful belongs to the category of proofs, even especial ones. How far from the truth to imagine that their knowledge is of the category of contemplation, or that their cognitions are like arguments and their premises! As long as the heart is covered within the wrapping of arguments and one is in the stage of contemplation, one has not yet reached even the first grade of the Truthful. And when the thick curtains of knowledge and proof are set aside and contemplation brushed aside, it is at the extremity of the Path drat there, without the mediation of contemplation - in fact without any means or agency whatsoever - that he ultimately succeeds in viewing the glory and beauty of the Absolute at the end of his voyage(trekking); it is then that he experiences perpetual and everlasting delight. He transcends the world and everything therein, covered under the mantle of the Almighty to remain existent in total annihilation. Nothing remains of him, and he passes into absolute oblivion, save that Divine favour should take him back to his realm and to the regions of (relative) being, in accordance with the capacity of his unchanging essence (al-`ayn al-thabitah). In the state of this return, the spheres of Divine glory and beauty are revealed to him, and he perceives (the meaning of) the Names and the Attributes in the mirror of the Essence. Through that he witnesses his own unchanging essence and everything that is under His shelter and protection, and discovers the tracks(trail) of the manifestations and the ways of recourse to the heart's exterior. Then he is conferred with the robes of prophethood and the difference of the stations of the apostles and prophets becomes evident to him. The vastness or narrowness of the circle of prophethood and that of those from whom the prophet is raised and those towards whom he is sent are revealed to him. And to enlarge on this topic further is not proper for these pages. So we shall leave it here and part, too, with the theme of burhan al-siddiqin,as it needs a preparatory introduction with its elaborate details.

The Desirable and the Forbidden Contemplation on the Divine Essence:

It should be known that what we said about the possibility of contemplation on the Essence, the Names and the Attributes may lead the ignorant to imagine that it is forbidden in accordance with certain riwayat, knowing not that that which is forbidden is to attempt to fathom the quality and depths of the Essence, as is clear from the traditions.' [5] Sometimes those who are not capable of such (otherwise desirable) contemplation are also forbidden from reflecting on certain kinds ofma`arif which require initiation into certain subtleties. The hukama' confirm both of these points. The impossibility of fathoming the Essence is demonstrated in their writings(Inscriptions), and the prohibition on contemplation on it is acknowledged by all of them. Also the conditions of entry into these sciences and the prohibition of the unworthy from learning them is also mentioned in their books; it is a customary advice which is mentioned by them either in the beginning or at the end of their works. For instance, the two great philosophers of Islam and authorities in this field, Shaykh Bu 'Ali Sina and Sadr al-Muta'allihin (R) have stated this at the end of al-'Isharat [6] and at the beginning of al-'Asfar. [7] They have given eloquent counsels in this regard. But to contemplate the Essence for positing the principle of al-tawhid and affirming Its transcendence (al-tanzih) and sanctity was the ultimate goal and purpose of the sending of the prophets and the cherished end of the `urafa'. The Holy Quran and the sacred ahadith are loaded with the knowledge of the Essence, Its Perfections and the Divine Names. Reliable books of traditions, like Usul al-Kafi and al-Tawhid of al Shaykh al-Saduq, also do not forbid contemplation for the purpose of affirmation of the Essence, the Names and the Attributes. The difference between the scriptures and traditions of the prophets and the writings of the philosophers is regarding their terminology and their synoptic or elaborate treatment of the subject, as is the case with the difference between fiqh and traditions. But the calamity is that certain ignorant persons have appeared in the garb of scholars during the last few centuries, who, being bereft of the knowledge of the Quran and the Sunnah, consider their sheer ignorance as the sole proof of the vanity of the knowledge of al-mabda' and al-ma'ad. Such a man for the sake of promoting his trade, labels these ma`arif, which were the ultimate goal of the apostles and the Awliya' (A) of God and with whose description the entire Book of God and the traditions of the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (A) are replete, as haram. Not sparing any charge(levy) and calumny against those who pursue these ma'arif, he diverts the hearts of the creatures of God from the knowledge of al-mabda' and al-ma`ad, in addition to sowing the seeds of discord and disharmony in the community of Muslims. When asked about the reason for all this takfir (calling someone kafir) and tafsiq, (calling someone fasiq ), he immediately clings to the tradition, `Do not contemplate upon the Essence (of God)'. The ignorance and the error of this wretch is for two reasons: Firstly, he believes that the hukama' contemplate on the Essence, whereas they consider its intellection as impossible and probing deep into its mysteries as forbidden, and this itself is one of the established issues of their discipline. Secondly, having misunderstood the meaning of the tradition, he believes that not a single word be uttered regarding the Sacred Essence.

Here we shall cite some of the related traditions and, in our humble capacity, try to reconcile them, leaving the judgement to the (reader's sense of) justice. Though this makes us digress from the proposed exposition of the hadith - our original goal -it is essential for eliminating doubts and refuting misconceptions. The following tradition is mentioned in al-Kafi:

...Abu Basir reports Abu Ja'far (A) as having said: Speak (takallamu) about the creation of God, and do not speak about God (fi Allah), for discourse about God will bring nothing but confusion (tahayyur)to the discourser. [8]

This tradition itself indicates that the purpose of the prohibition is to discourage discourse aimed at fathoming the depths (iktinah) of the Essence and Its kayfiyyah (quality) with a view to discovering Its cause. Otherwise, discoursing about the Essence with a view to affirming It, Its Perfections, Its Unity and Transcendence does not cause confusion. It is also possible that the prohibition here relates to such persons in whom discourse about these matters will cause perplexity and confusion. The late muhaddith al-Majlisi (R) has allowed both of these possibilities without elaborating them, but he gives more weight to the first one. Another tradition of al-Kafi states:

...from Hariz, from Abu `Abd Allah (A) that he said: "Discuss everything, but do not discuss the Essence of the Almighty." [9]

There are other traditions which are identical or close in import to this riwayah, and to cite them all is not essential. Another tradition of al-Kafi states:

...Abu Ja'far (A) said: "Beware of tafakkur in God. But if you wish to view His grandeur, observe the great of His creations." [10]

Apparently, this riwayah also seems to forbid probing into the reality of the Essence, for the tradition adds that if someone wants to perceive the glory of the Almighty he should infer it from the grandeur of His creation. This kind of parabolic approach is intended for various types of persons whose knowledge of God is derived through the means of the creation.

This and other such traditions which appear to forbid discourse and contemplation on God by themselves support our claim, which is expressly confirmed by the following tradition of al-Kafi on contemplation:

The most superior form of worship is perpetual contemplation on God and His Power. [11]

Accordingly, contemplation on God for positing His Essence and contemplating His Power, His Names and Attributes is not only not prohibited, but is the most superior kind of worship. Another tradition of al-Kafi states:

`Ali (A) ibn al-Husayn (A) was questioned about tawhid; he answered "Verily, God Almighty knew that during the Last Age there would be a people of profound thinking. Hence the Almighty revealed (Surat al-Tawhid) and the verses of the Surat al-Hadid up to`And God is the Knower of all that is in the hearts'. So whosoever goes beyond that will perish." [12]

This shows that these verses about tawhid and tanzih, the verses about the emergence and the return of the creation mentioned therein, are for those who contemplate profoundly. Can then anyone still claim that contemplating on God Almighty is prohibited? What `arif and hakim has brought anything that goes beyond the commencing verses of the Surat al-Hadid? The ultimate of their achievement is that 'All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifieth Allah'.-'Is ` there any better way of describing God Almighty and the aspects of His Sacred Essence than the verse:

 

He is the First and the Last, and the Outward and the Inward, and He is the Knower of all things. (57:3)

By the Life of the Beloved, had there been nothing besides this verse in the Glorious Book of God, it would have been sufficient for the men of heart!

If one were to consider the Book of God and the sermons and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (S) and his infallible vicegerents (A), one shall notice that no `arif or hakim has said anything on any of the conceivable sub-issues of the Divine teachings that goes beyond these; all their statements are replete with the description (tawsif) of the Almighty and full of arguments about His sacred Essence and Attributes, so that every class of scholars benefits from them according to the capacity of its comprehension.

Then all of these traditions show that contemplating and meditating on the Essence is forbidden on a certain level, which is to probe into the inmost mysteries (kunh) of the Essence and Its Quality(kayfiyyah), as stated in this tradition of al-Kafi:

Whosoever contemplates in God to see how He is, perishes. [13]

Moreover, the traditions forbidding contemplation and those enjoining it, when reconciled, give the conclusion(deduction)  that a group of people who do not possess the strength of giving ear to philosophical arguments (burhan), having no capacity of entering into such discussions, are forbidden from doing so, and there are indications in the riwayat which testify to this. But as for those who have an aptitude for it, it is not only proper but is the highest form of worship. In any case, we have digressed completely from our proposed theme, but there was no way we could avoid examining those degenerate views and the kind of calumnies, displeasing to God, which have acquired circulation during recent times on tongues, with the hope that it will make some effect on some hearts, and if one person were to accept this it would be sufficient for me. And praise is God's and to Him do we complain. 

Contemplation on Creation:

Another level of contemplation is reflecting on the subtleties of creation, its perfection and refinement, to the extent that it is in human power. Such contemplation leads to the intellection of its Perfect Source, its Wise Maker, and is a process which is the reverse of the burhan al siddiqin; for, in the latter, the point of departure is the station of God Almighty, glorious is His Name, wherefrom is d the knowledge of the manifestations of His Sovereignty (wilayah). Here, however, the point of departure is creation, whereafter is d the knowledge of its Source and Maker. This proof (burhan) is for ordinary people, who do not partake of the burhan al-siddiqin. Therefore, perhaps, many of them would negate that the contemplation of God can bring the knowledge of Him and that the knowledge of the Origin can lead to the knowledge of the creation.

Hence, the contemplation of the subtleties and the marvels of creation and the firmness and finesse of the system of creation belongs to the category of lucrative knowledge; it is the most meritorious of the actions of the heart and superior to all worships, since its result is the noblest of all results. Although in all forms of devotional rites (`ibadat) the main aim and the real secret is the acquisition of transcendental knowledge (ma'arif), yet the likes of us find no access to such secrets and such results. They are for their own people, to whom every devotional rite is like a grain of one or several revelations.

In any case, man has not been able to the real knowledge of the subtleties and secrets of creation. So subtle are its foundations and so firm its design, so beautiful and perfectly planned is its system that if we consider any creature, however insignificant and humble it should appear to be, with all the scientific development  during centuries of studies man has been unable to discover even one of its thousand secrets, let alone the majesty of the cosmic system of creation whose intricacies and mysteries are beyond the reaches of our vision and inaccessible to our imperfect, limited ideas. Now we shall draw your attention to one of the subtleties of creation which is relatively near to understanding and comprehension and is considered to lie in the realm of the sensible.

The Earth and the Sun: Two Masterpieces of Creation

My dear, observe and reflect on the relationship between the earth and the sun, the fixed(stationary) distance and the suitable speed(gallop) with which the earth spins on its axis and revolves in its orbit around the sun, causing day and night and the seasons. What a perfection of creative skill and what a work of immaculate wisdom it is that had it been not exactly so - that is had the earth been a little away or nearer to the sun - there would not have been any vegetation and animal life, on account of chilling cold due to the former and excessive heat due to the latter. And, similarly, had the earth remained static(motionless), there would not have been any days and nights and seasons either, and the earth would have been without any trace of life despite possessing everything else to support life. Yet He did not suffice at this; He made its north furthest from the sun (in the northern hemisphere), so as to ensure that excessive heat does no harm to the creatures; the point nearest to the sun was situated towards the south, so that coldness should not harm the inhabitants of the earth. This was also not enough; the moon, which also influences the earth's creatures, was assigned a different course than the earth, in such a way that when the sun is the northern region of the earth, the moon appears in the southern, and vice versa. This was for the sake of the utmost benefit of their positions relative to the earth. These are principally sensible phenomena, yet to encompass their subtleties and secrets is not possible for anybody but their omnipotent Creator.

Why should we go so far ? If one contemplates his own creation, according to the scope of his knowledge and capability, beginning with the external senses he will see that they have been contrived according to the kind of sensations and sense perceptions they receive. For every group of sensible objects a separate faculty of perception has been created, and that too with what astounding propriety and skill! And for matters of a supra-sensible nature, which cannot be perceived through the outward senses, internal senses have been fashioned to perceive them. Let alone the knowledge of the soul and its spiritual faculties, which the human intellect cannot comprehend, and contemplate upon the human body, its anatomy, its physical constitution and the functioning of each and every external and internal organ. See what a wonderful(fantastic) system and what a striking(imposing) order they constitute! In spite of a hundred centuries of scientific study, man has not been able to understand a thousandth fraction of it, and all the scientists declare their inability in this regard in unambiguous terms, although this body of man is no more than an insignificant speck in comparison to other creatures on the earth's crust, and the earth with all its inhabitants is of little significance as compared with the solar system and our complete solar system is of no consequence when compared with other solar systems and galaxies; and all these macro and micro systems are parts of a disciplined and orderly system, no speck of which can be found faulty by anyone and all the human intellects are unable to understand even a single secret of its myriad recondite subtleties and secrets.

Does your intellect still need something more after this reflection to believe that an Omniscient, Omnipotent and All-Wise Being, who does not resemble any other being in anything, has created all these creatures with their firm orderliness and subtlety?

....Can there be any doubt concerning God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth?...(14:10)

All this orderly and systematic(scientifically) artistry, whose general laws no human mind can comprehend, has not come into existence by itself and spontaneously. Blind be the inner eye that fails to perceive the Truth and cannot observe its beauty in these creatures! Perish the man who is skeptical and doubtful despite seeing all these effects and signs! But, what else can helpless man, captivated by fantasies, do? If you take out your rosary and claim that its beads got assembled on the thread by themselves, without anybody arranging them, everyone will laugh at your intelligence. You will invite a calamity if you take out your pocket watch and make similar claims about it; if you do such a thing will you not have stuck off your name from the list of the sane and wouldn't all the sane people of the world consider you a lunatic? If one who considers this primitive and small mechanical system to originate without a cause and as being outside causality is considered insane(unbalanced) and is likely to be stripped of all the rights belonging to men of reason, what is to be done with the person who claims not the whole cosmic system but even man and the complex system of his body and soul alone to have come into existence by itself? Is he still to be reckoned among men of reason? What fool is more stupid(dense)  than such a man?

Perish man! What has made him an unbeliever? (80:17)

Death to him whom knowledge cannot revive and who is drowned in the sea of his own error

 

Contemplation on the States of the Soul:

One of the levels of contemplation is meditation on the states of the soul, which is of immense benefit being the source of vast(massive) transcendental knowledge. Here we intend to discuss two benefits: one is the knowledge of the Day of Resurrection, and the other is the knowledge of (the necessity of) prophethood and revealed scriptures - that is, of general prophethood (al-nubuwwat al-`ammah) and systems of Divine Law (sharayi' haqqah). One of the issues pertaining to the soul is its state of independence (from the body), a problem which has been given more significance than any other philosophical issue by all the eminent hukama about which they have given numerous proofs and explanations. Here we are not in a position to offer an elaborate proof of this. We shall confine ourselves to mentioning some simple preliminaries and then return to our subject.

All the physicians, scientists and anatomists unanimously agree that all the human organs, from the piamater - which is the centre of sense perceptions and the stage for the manifestation of all psychic faculties - to the coarser parts and organs of the body, weaken, deteriorate and decline after the age of thirty or thirty-five years. We ourselves have experienced how weakness and sluggishness overtake all the organs of the body after that age. However, at the same time, that is at the age of thirty and forty and after that, the spiritual faculties and intellectual perceptions become more refined and gain in growth and strength. This implies that the rational faculties are not physically based, for had they been corporeal like other physical faculties, they would also have declined. It is not right to imagine that it is the extent of intellectual activity as well as experience which strengthen the intellectual faculties, because all the physical faculties weaken and decline despite prolonged use and do not grow in strength and perfection. This proves that the intellectual faculty is not physically rooted.

It is also improper to say that the faculty of intellect also declines with age, because, firstly, none of the physical faculties grows strong till middle age, so that it may be said that a certain organ of the body has been the centre of intellectual perception that grows in strength till middle age and then becomes weaker, thus rendering weak the faculty of intellect as well.

Secondly, the weakness which continues into middle age is associated with rational thought, which is either a faculty present in the body or is dependent on the physical faculties. The purely intellectual and higher faculties continue to become stronger than ever before during middle age, although their expression and outward manifestation may be lesser. In short, the strength of the faculty of intellectual perception at the age of forty or fifty years is enough for proving our contention.

Moreover, every such faculty which is nearer to the physical and corporeal domain is inclined to deteriorate and decay more rapidly, and that which is more removed from it weakens more latterly. But the powers belonging to the world of the transcendent and the celestial become stronger and their vitality increases. This proves that the soul is not corporeal and physical in nature. Since the properties, effects and activities of the soul are opposed to the properties, effects and activities of the purely corporeal organs, it proves that the soul is not corporeal in nature. For instance, through prior knowledge we know that a body does not accept more than one form. If it is to receive another form, it will have to part with the form it earlier had. For example, if a picture is drawn on a paper, another picture cannot be painted on that page as long as the first picture is not erased completely. This principle is applicable to all bodies; but for the soul, while one form is impressed on it, other totally different forms can also be stamped on it without the first form being wiped out. Every corporeal body can receive only finite forms, whereas the soul can receive infinite forms, and it is for this reason that it can posit infinity. Also, every corporeal body, if it loses one form, that form cannot be restored to it without a renewed cause; but in the case of the soul, any form, after having left it, may return to it without any resumption of the cause. This shows that the soul is opposed to all corporeal bodies regarding properties, effects and action. Hence it has a non-corporeal existence of its own and does not belong to the category of bodies and physical objects.

Anything that is non-corporeal is not subject to decay - as has been demonstrated in its own place - because decay cannot occur without matter, and the non-corporeal is independent of matter. Matter is the precondition of corporeal bodies; therefore, decay is not possible for the soul. Hence we come to the conclusion that the soul does not weaken and decay or is destroyed with the weakening, decay or destruction of the body, or after separating from it. It remains in another world and there is no death and extinction for it; this is a spiritual resurrection for the souls, prior to the Day of Resurrection, when they are united with the bodies by the will of God.

Now we reach the point of absolute affirmation of Resurrection, and stand opposed to those who negate it absolutely. From these preliminaries it should be clear that there is health and disease, reform and corruption, knowledge and wretchedness for souls, and to discover their source and to know the secrets of their corruption and welfare is not possible for anyone except the Holy Essence of the Almighty. In the perfect system of the cosmos, which is the best of possible systems ordered by the Absolutely Wise and the Omniscient, it is impossible that there should be any negligence regarding the education of mankind as to the ways of its felicity and wretchedness, its guidance towards the causes of spiritual soundness and corruption, and the prescription of remedies for curing the soul. This is because such a negligence would imply a defect either in God's knowledge or His power, either His generosity or His justice, whereas it is known that His Holy Being is free from all these defects. He is absolutely perfect and absolutely generous. Any neglect providing guidance pointing out the paths of knowledge and wretchedness will imply a great defect in Divine wisdom, which would lead to cosmic disorder and chaos. Therefore, the perfect system necessitates the declaration of the paths of felicity and the road to guidance. This explanation leads to two clear conclusions.

One is that the Shari'ah is the prescription for spiritual maladies and is known to none except the Sacred Being of the Almighty. The other is that it is necessary for God to bring it to the knowledge of man. It is obvious that such a momentous, perfect and precise knowledge, whose apprehension is not possible through the intellectual faculties of men - none of which can grasp either the relationships between tile corporeal and transcendental worlds or the effects of the transcendental forms on the inner depths of the soul - can only be accessible through the agency of wahy or revelation, that is, by means of Divine teaching. It is clear that every human individual is not worthy of this office and does not have the capability of occupying this station and performing this duty. It is only once in several centuries that one such individual is to be found who is worthy of performing this task and who can undertake such a great mission. God Almighty assigns to him the task of expounding the paths of felicity and wretchedness to humanity, to make them aware of that wherein lies their welfare. This is general prophethood (al-nubuwwat al-`ammah). Now that we have arrived at this point in our discussion, we may explain a further point which should be considered as one of self-evident truths.

A Conclusive Proof:

Now that we know that there should necessarily be a Shari'ah laid down by the Divine Lawgiver for mankind, when we turn to the shari'ahs prevailing amongst mankind we see that there are three principal ones: the shari'ah of Jews, the shari'ah of Christians, and the shari'ah of Islam. We find that in all the three essential foundations which constitute the basis of all shari'ahs (of which the first is concerned with the true doctrines and Divine teachings about God's Attributes and His transcendence, the knowledge of angels and the qualities of the prophets (A) and their infallibility, which are the principal and main component of the shari'ahs; the second is about praiseworthy qualities, purification of the soul and moral excellences; the third is about outward individual and social acts and rites pertaining to political and civic actions and their like), the Islamic shari'ah is more complete than the others. Anyone who tries to judge without prejudice will discover that it is incomparable to the others, and there does not exist any religious law pertaining to all the aspects and stages of life more perfect regarding its worldly and otherworldly aspects than this Law. This is itself the biggest proof in favour of its Divine origin. Accordingly, after affirming the doctrine of universal prophethood and the doctrine that God Almighty has legislated a Divine shari'ah for humanity, showing them the path of guidance and bringing them under the cover of one discipline and system, no preliminaries are required for proving the truthfulness of the Islamic Din except for examining it and comparing it with other religious laws on every conceivable level of human need - from righteous qualities and spiritual learning to individual and social responsibilities. And this is the meaning of the following sacred tradition:

Islam surpasses (every creed) and is not surpassed(unsurpassed) (by anything).

This is because the more the intellects of men progress and the more they gain in understanding, they bow their heads in front of its light of guidance when they consider its proofs (hujaj) and arguments (barahin), and no hujjah in the world can refute them.

The result of our arguments relating to the positing of the prophetic mission of the Seal of Prophethood (S) is that in the same way as the creative perfection manifest in the creation of the cosmos and its perfect arrangement and order directs us towards the intellection of a Being who has ordered it and whose omniscience encompasses all its particulars, subtleties and grandeurs, the perfection of the Shari'ah - whose perfect order and methodical finesse is capable of guaranteeing all the material and spiritual, this-worldly and otherworldly, collective and individual needs - guides us to the fact that the system of this shari`ah has been ordered by a knowledge which encircles all the needs of the human species. And since our intellects tell us that the intellectual faculties of a man whose biography has been written by all the historians of religion and who was an unlettered person brought up(reared) in a society devoid of all higher knowledge and virtues, could not have produced such a perfect and systematic shari'ah. Hence, of necessity, we have to acknowledge that thisShari'ah has a metaphysical and transcendental source, and reached that glorious personage (S) by means of Divine revelation and wahy. And praise is God's for the clarity of proofs.

We had intended to describe another stage of contemplation -the contemplation on this world, andzuhd is its fruit - but since this pen broke its reins in the earlier stages of this discourse making it somewhat lengthier than intended, we shall refrain from going into it.

[1]. Usul al-Kafi (Akhundi, ed. by 'Ali' Akbar Ghaffiri), II, 54.

[2]. Manazil al-sa'irin, I, 57.

[3]. Usul al-Kafi, II, 55.

[4]. Ibid., II, 50.

[5]. Al-Mahajjat al-bayda ; VIII, 193

[6]. Al- Isharat wa al-tanbihat (Tehran: Haydari), III, 419.

[7]Al- Asfar al-'arba'ah (Dar al-Ma'arif al-'Islamiyyah ), I, 10.

[8]Usul al-Kafi, I, 92, hadith 1.

[9]. Ibid.

[10]. Ibid., I, 93, hadith 7.

[11]. Ibid., II, 55, hadith 6.

[12]. Ibid., I, 91, hadith 3.

[13]. Ibid., I, 93, hadith 5.


 

 

 The Virtues of the Midnight Prayer:

Now remains the exposition of these two phrases of the hadith:In this blessed pronouncement, the Commander of the Faithful, al-'Imam `Ali (A), has placed the actions of the heart, contemplative awareness, and the taqwa of God by the side of night vigils and keeping aloof from the bed for the sake of worship. This proves the distinction and merit it commands, and the practice has been greatly glorified in the traditions. The biographies of the Imams of guidance (A), and those of great sages and eminent scholars, indicate that they not only assiduously observed it, but attached great importance to the practice of staying awake until the late hours of night, aside from the aim of worship.

There are forty-one ahadith recorded in Wasai'l al-Shi`ah (the greatest of Shi'i books, which is the pivot of the Shi'i legal school and the source book of Shi'i scholars and fuqaha') about the benefits and merits of observing this practice, and there are several ahadith about the undesirability of giving up this habit. There are, of course countless of similar traditions in the books of supplications and prayers, but we shall quote only a few in the following, as a token of barakahand blessing:

It is reported in al-Kafi from Mu'awiyah ibn 'Amman who said that he heard al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) say: "In the wasiyyahaddressed to 'Ali (A) by the Prophet (S), he (S) said: 'O 'Ali, I enjoin you regarding certain habits that you must safeguard.' Then the Prophet (S) prayed, 'O God, succour him.' Then (continuing his advice) he said: 'Observe the midnight prayer. Observe the midnight prayer. Observe the midnight prayer. [14]

Its great significance may be understood from the entire tradition:

In al-Khisal, Abu 'Abd Allah (A) is reported to have said: "The Prophet (S) asked Jibra'il to exhort him about something. Jibra'il said: 'O Muhammad! Live you as you wish, for verily you will die one day. And love whatever you like, for verily you will have to part from it. Act as you wish, for verily you will have to face it. Know that the distinction of a believer lies in his establishing the night vigil and his nobleness lies in refraining from (maligning) the people's honour. [15]

The high degree of its significance can be understood from Jibrail's especially recommending it to the Messenger of God (S); for had Jibra'il (A) deemed anything else as more important, he would have mentioned it while giving advice.

It is reported in al-Majalis on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that the Prophet (S) sad in a hadith: "When God Almighty appoints the night vigil as sustenance for His slave, man or woman, when he/she wakes up at night with sincere devotion towards God, performs a full ablution, and says prayer for the Almighty God with the purity of intention, with whole heartedness and with tearful eyes, God Almighty appoints seven rows of angels (to pray) behind him/ her. No one except God can count their number on each side of each row, which extends from the east to the west. When he concludes the prayer, God Almighty writes grades for him equal to their number." [16]

In 'Ilal al-shara'i, it is reported from Anas that he heard the Messenger of God say: "Two rak'ah of prayer performed in the middle of night are dearer to me than the entire world and everything therein." [17]

In a number of ahadith it has been reported that the midnight prayer is the mu'min's honour and dignity, and his adornment in the Hereafter, in the same way as children and wealth are the adornments of this world.

In `Ilal al-shara'i, Jabir is reported to have heard the Prophet (S) say: "God did not befriend Ibrahim (A) except for his feeding people and offering prayers by night while the people were fast asleep." [18]

Had there been no other merit besides(alongside) this for the midnight prayer, it would have been enough - but for those alone who deserve to practise it, not the likes of me. We do not know what honour and distinction it is and what it means to possess the station of being befriended by God. All intellects fail to comprehend it. If all the adornments of Paradise were displayed before his eyes, such a man would not even glance at them. You also, had you a beloved dear to your heart, or a very dear friend, were he to be present in front of you, it will cause you to neglect all the good and delicious things, absorbing your attention entirely with the vision of the beloved and the radiance of the countenance of the dear one, though this similitude is out of proportion for describing this condition, to the extent that the east is far from the west.

From 'Ali ibn Ibrahim who, with his chain(series) of narrators, reports from al 'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that he said: "For every good deed that a slave of God performs, the reward for it is specified in the Quran, except for the midnight prayer, which commands an unusually high reward on account of its great worth. (God says in the Quran): Their sides shun their beds as they call on their Lord in fear and hope; and they expend of what We have provided them. No soul knows what delight is laid up for them secretly, as a recompense for that they were doing (32:16,17)." [19]

What can be the delight that God Almighty has kept in store for them, concealing it from the eyes of all? Had it been something similar to the flowing streams, the magnificent mansions, and the diverse bounties of Paradise, He would have described it - as in the case of other deeds, of which (at least) the angels are aware. This shows that this reward is above all these and of a different kind; its greatness stands beyond that which can be communicated to anyone, especially the inhabitants of this lowly world. Do not liken the bounties of this world to those of the other. Do not imagine that the Paradise and the gardens therein are similar to the gardens of this world, only somewhat vaster and of a greater degree of grandeur. There is the abode of Divine beneficence and the house of the hospitality of the Lord. The entire world is not comparable in grandeur to a single hair of a houri of Paradise. Rather it is not comparable even to a thread of the garments made for its inhabitants.

Despite all this, God Almighty has named none of these as reward for the performers of the midnight prayer, and has only referred to the high station of theirs in the words of the above verse. But, alas, we are indolent, being not men of certitude. Otherwise, it would not have been possible for us to be neglectful to such a degree and to be so drowned in deep sleep till morning. If the night vigils were to make man aware of the mysteries of salat, were he to preoccupy his mind with the remembrance and contemplation of the Lord, and were his nights to become mounts of ascent into the Divine Proximity, his reward would be nothing other than the vision of the Absolute Beauty.

And woe to us, the negligent who do not wake up from slumber till the end of life and remain under the intoxication of nature! Woe to us, whom every day increases in stupefaction! Woe to us, who live(survive) on the animal plane, comprehending nothing but eating, drinking(beer) and lovemaking! Whatever we do, even if it is worship, that too is merely meant for catering to the needs of the belly and the underneath. Do you imagine that the salat of Khalil al-Rahman, the Friend of the Beneficent (Ibrahim), was similar to that of ours? He did not speak of his wishes even to Jibra'il - and we? We do not hesitate to beg even Satan (if we believe him to be mighty enough to grant our prayers) to fulfil our desires!

Yet there is no need to lose hope. It is possible that after a period of performing the night vigil and habituating ourselves to it God Almighty may gradually help you and cover you, with an invisible gesture of grace, with the robe of His mercy. But, on the whole, do not be oblivious of the mysteries of worship, and do not devote yourself merely to the outward refinements of Qur'anic recitings. If you cannot perform it with a sincerity of intention, strive at least for the delight that God Almighty has kept hidden from all the sights. And remember in your prayers, should it be your wish, this rebellious and beastly sinner who has forgone all higher stations to remain content to thrive on the animal plane. And chant with full attention and sincerity of intention this prayer:

My God, I implore Thee to rescue me from the house of illusion and this abode of delirium, and help me to return to the abode of eternity. Grant me the ability(talent) and preparedness to die before such an opportunity is lost. [20]

What is Taqwa?

This should be known that taqwa (derived from wiqayah, defence) is a kind of defence and shielding. In common speech, as well as in the vocabulary of traditions, it means to restrain or bridle oneself from violating Divine commands (awamirand nawahi) and from going against what is pleasing to God. It is usually used for efficacious guarding of the soul and total control of it from falling into illegal and illegitimate acts, by refraining from all that is suspect (i.e. not known to be permissible for certain):

Whosoever pursues dubious things, spills into forbidden things (muharramat) and is destroyed on account of his ignorance, such as an animal that grazes around a mire(marsh) is liable to soon get entrapped in it. [21]

This should be known that although mere taqwa does not by itself constitute the higher stages of perfection and spiritual accomplishment, but reaching a high station is also not possible without it; for as long as the soul is smeared with commission of prohibited deeds, one cannot enter the door of humanity and cannot be a wayfarer of its path. As long as man remains obedient to his carnal wishes and sensual pleasures and their sweetness hangs in his mouth, he cannot even reach the preliminary grades of human perfection. As long as he cherishes the love of the world in his heart and has the fondness: for mundane things, he cannot reach the station of even those who are halfway on the road(mutawassitun) and the zuhhad. And as long as self-love lies embedded in his essence, he will not reach the station of the sincere (mukhlisun) and the lovers of God. Until the love for the pluralities of the world (mulk) and the Hereafter(malakut) is evident in his heart, he will not reach the high station of the majdhubun (those immersed in the Divine and detached from all worldly attachments). And until the plurality of the Names is manifest within the core(interior) of his essence, he cannot attain total annihilation (fana). As long as his heart is turned towards the spiritual station, he has not attained the station of complete extinction. And until his essence is prone to take up different colours (talwin), he has not reached the station of stable endurance, and the Essence; as the referent of the Name of the Essence, will not cast Its eternal and everlasting radiance into his heart. Thus, for ordinary men taqwa is with respect to the forbidden things; for the elect it is vis-a-vis sensual pleasures; for the ascetics it is in relation to the world, for the sincere it is in relation to the love of the self; and for the majdhubun it is in relation to the plurality of Act; for the faniyun (those who have annihilated themselves in the Essence) it is in relation to the plurality of the Names; for, the wasdun (those who have reached the Essence) taqwa is in relation to absorption in the annihilation; and for the mutamakkinun it is in regard to inner instabilities (talwinat), and hence the Quran enjoins:

So be as steadfast as thou art commanded. (11: 112)

There is much that can be said for each one of these stations, the description of which would not lead the likes of us anywhere except into confusion and bafflement over terms, blind as we are to the meanings concealed by the veils of concepts, and there are a people who befit every field. Now we shall turn our attention to taqwa in its elementary form, which is more significant for mankind.

Taqwa for the Common People:

Remember, my dear, that in the same way as there is health and sickness for the human body and remedies and cures for correcting it, there is also health and disease and remedies and cures for the human soul as well. Its health and well-being is observance of moderation, it lies in treading the human path, and sickness and affliction is the result of deviating from the right path of humanity. The spiritual maladies and diseases are a thousand times more significant than the physical maladies; for at the most the latter ultimately lead to death. As soon as death approaches and the soul leaves the body, all physical maladies and corporeal defects and infirmities disappear for one, and one does not feel any bodily pain and affliction any more.

But if, God forbid, one is afflicted with spiritual maladies and diseases of the soul, the time of death is withdrawal of the soul's attention from the body and its redirection towards the domain of the spirit: that is the beginning of the experience of these sicknesses and afflictions. The similitude of attention toward the world and its attachments is like the narcotics which makes its addict oblivious of himself. The breaking of the soul's bonds with the realm of the physical world makes the soul gain self-consciousness. As soon as it becomes self-conscious, all the pains, diseases and indispositions that lie latent within the depths of the essence, now overwhelm it and each and every thing that remained invisible until that time, like fire smouldering under ashes, becomes evident. Those diseases and maladies either cannot be driven away and adhere firmly to one, or if they are remediable, it is only after being subjected to tortures, pains, fire and burning for thousands of years that they can be wiped away: `the last cure is cauterization.' God Almighty says:

...It will be heated in the fire of hell, and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded therewith. (9:35)

The apostles of God are similar to kind physicians who out of great concern for treating illnesses prescribe different remedies in accordance with the severity of the disease. They have strived to guide mankind on the right path of genuine guidance (We are God-trained physicians). The effect of the spiritual deeds and actions of the heart, as well as the external deeds and actions of the body, is similar to that of a medicine. In the same way, the effect of taqwa, on each of its levels, is similar to abstaining from those things that aggravate the disease. Unless the sick man does not abstain from harmful things, it is not possible that his malady be replaced by well-being and the prescribed remedy be effectual. During physical illness, sometimes, despite a little intemperance, medicine and nature do their work and one may regain his health and well-being; for nature itself is a protector of health and medicine acts as its assistant. But the matter is more serious in the case of spiritual maladies, as here the nature dominates the apparition(spirit) from the very beginning. and the spiritual side heads towards corruption and decline:

Verily, it is the self which incites to evil (12:53)

Accordingly, the disease overwhelms it on the slightest indulgence and intemperance, making inroads and destroying its health and vigour completely. Therefore, anyone who is concerned with his spiritual soundness, will try to improve his condition after finding the ways of getting rid of painful chastisement. His well-being rests upon two things: one is to adopt those things which bring spiritual health, and the other is to abstain from things which bring spiritual harm and affliction.

It should be remembered that the spiritual harm inflicted by the forbidden things is greater than all other vices, and it is for this very reason that they have been forbidden. And to perform the obligatory and incumbent duties is also most necessary, and it is for this reason that they have been made obligatory and given priority over all other things. These have been considered as the foremost and the most essential steps in the direction of spiritual advancement.

Treading the path of felicity and reaching the highest human grades and stations depends upon having traversed these two stages. Anyone who observes them s felicity and salvation. Of these two, taqwa, or abstinence from muharramat, isthe more significant. The mystics and the wayfarers have also considered it more significant than the other step. A study of the traditions (of the Prophet [S] and the Imams [A]) and the sermons of the Nahj al-balaghah further confirms this that the Infallible Ones (A) also laid great emphasis on this step.

Therefore, O dear, consider the first stage to be of utmost importance and be greatly heedful and attentive regarding these matters. If the first step is taken rightly and this foundation is laid solidly, there is hope of reaching the other stations; otherwise it is impossible to attain the higher stations and very difficult and painstaking to obtain salvation. Our precious Shaykh used to enjoin us to attend constantly to the following verses of the Surat al-Hashr:

O ye who believe! Observe your duty (taqwa) to God. And let every soul look to that which it sendeth on before for the morrow. And observe your duty (taqwa) to God! Verily, God is informed of what ye do. And be not ye as those who forgot God, and He caused them to forget their souls. Such are the evildoers. Not equal are the people of the Fire and the people of the Garden. The people of the Garden, they are the victorious. If We had caused the Quran to descent upon the mountain, thou (O Muhammad) verily hadest seen it humbled, rent asunder by the fear of God. Such similitudes coin We for mankind that haply they may reflect. He is God, than Whom there is no other god, the Knower of the invisible and the visible. He is the Beneficent, the Merciful. He is God, than Whom there is no other god, the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One, Peace, the Keeper of faith, the Guardian, the Majestic, the Compeller, the Superb. Glorified be God from all that they ascribe as partners (unto Him)! He is God, the Creator, the Shaper out of naught, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifieth Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise.(59:18-24)

Our Shaykh would ask us to recite these verses after daily prayers and to contemplate over their meaning, especially in the late hours of night when the heart is relaxed, stating that it is very effective for curing the soul and for holding the mischief of the self and Satan at bay. He would recommend us to be with ablution (wudu') all the time, for, he would say, it is like a warrior's armour.

In any case, beseech and entreat God Almighty with supplications and tears to succour you and assist you during this trial and to help you in acquiring the faculty of taqwa. Remember that in the beginning it will appear to be a little hard, but after strict observance of a few days discomfort will change into reassurance

and hardship into leisure and tranquillity; rather, it will give you a unique spiritual joy, which those who have tasted value higher than all other enjoyments.

God willing, after strict vigilance and total taqwa, you will progress towards the station of taqwa attained by the elect, which is taqwa against sensual pleasures. When you taste the sweetness of spiritual enjoyment, you will gradually turn away from physical pleasures and try to evade them. Traversing the path will become easier for you and you will not attach any value to transitory physical enjoyments; rather, you will abhor them. The worldly treasures will appear ugly and coarse(unfarmed) to your eyes.

In this state of consciousness, you will realize that each one of the worldly pleasures leaves its trace on the soul, a black blot on the heart: it intensifies the love for this world, which itself causes one to cling to this place, and, at the time of the wrenching(yanking) away of the soul from the body, takes the form of the agony of death and its distresses and squeezes. Mainly(principally), the anguish and agony of death and its severity are the result of these pleasures and these attachments to the corporeal world, as said earlier. As soon as man gains consciousness of this fact, all the physical pleasures lose their significance in his eyes.

He becomes abhorant towards the world, its treasures and adornments. This itself is another success, whence the wayfarer advances towards the third grade of taqwa. Thereupon, treading the Path of God becomes easier for him and the road to humanness becomes illuminated and spacious. Every step that he takes carries him further on the way of Truth.

His exercises assume sacred validity. He becomes averse to the self, its ways and its demands. He senses within his being the love of God and he is no more satisfied now with the promises of Paradise and the palaces and the houris thereof. He yearns for a higher ideal and end hating his (earlier) self-seeking and self-love. His taqwa is now directed against self love and he becomes muttaqi in regard to his own self-indulgence. This is a high and lofty attainment and the first step in the direction of sensing the fragrance of wilayah. God Almighty specifies a seat for him under the shelter of His grace and succours him with His special favours.

The matters that the wayfarer on the Divine path experiences after this are beyond the ken of expression. And praise belongs to God, in the beginning and the end, outwardly and inwardly, and may His benedictions be upon Muhammad and the pure of his progeny.

[14]. Al-Kulayni, Rawdat al-Kafi, p.162; al-Hurr al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, V, 268; al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Man la yahduruhu al-faqih. I, 484; al-Kulayni, Furu al al-Kafi, I, 73.

[15]. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Thawab al-'a'mal, p.63, hadith 41; Man la yahduruhu al-faqih, I, 471,

[16]. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, V, 275.

[17]. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, 'Ilal al-shara'i, p.138.

[18]. Ibid., p.23; Wasa'il al Shi'ah, V, 276.

[19]. 'Ilal al-shara'i, p.23; Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, V, 276.

[20]. Shaykh 'Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al jinan.

[21]. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah.

...Muhammad ibn Ya'qub (al-Kulayni): from a group of our teachers, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid, from more than one transmitter, from 'Ali ibn Asbat, from Ahmad ibn 'Umar al-Hallal, from 'Ali ibn Suwayd, from Abu al-Hasan al-'Awwal (A). 'Ali ibn Suwayd says: "I asked him concerning the utterance of God Almighty, 'And whoever puts his trust in God, then God suffices him' (65:3). The Imam (A) said: 'There are various degrees of trust in God. Of them one is that you should put your trust in God in all your affairs, being well-pleased with whatever God does to you, knowing for certain that he does not cease in His goodness and grace towards you, and that the command therein rests with Him. So put your trust in God, leaving that to Him and relying upon Him in regard to that and everything other than that."' [1]

Exposition:

Halal, with a shaddah on the lam, means the seller of hill, oil. Abu al-Hasan al-'Awwal is al-'Imam al-Kazim (A), and it is he who is meant (in traditions) when just `Abu al-Hasan' is mentioned. Abu al-Hasan al-Thani is al-'Imam al-Rida (A) and Abu al-Hasan al-Thalith is al-'Imam al-Hadi (the Tenth Imam). Tawakkul literally mean, admission of one's inability and reliance on one other than oneself. means, as the lexicographers `I relied upon him in' a certain matter', the word originally being, which means considering someone sufficient. derived from nd meaning `to fail', `to neglect', `to refrain'. In the transitive form, some have said, when it requires two maf'ul, the sense of preventing and depriving(man`) is assured ....

Tawakkul, is something other than tafwid; and the two are different from rida and wuthuq, as will be explained later on. We will now explain this noble tradition in a number of sections:

Tawakkul and its Degrees:

Know, that closely related meanings have been ascribed to tawakkul by the various definitions proposed by different schools, each according to its own approach. The author of Manazil al-sai'rin says:

 

Tawakkul means entrusting all the matters to their Master and relying upon His trusteeship. [2]

Some `urafa' have said:

Tawakkul means throwing the body down (as in prostration) in servitude (to God) and attaching the heart to (His) Lordship.

That is, it means using one's bodily powers in obedience to God and refraining from interfering in the matters (of the heart) and consigning it to the Lord. Some others have said:

Tawakkul upon God means the severance by the servant of all hopes and expectations from the creatures (and attaching, them to God).

The meanings mentioned are. closely related arid there is no need to delve further on the meaning of the word. However, that which should be mentioned is that tawakkul has various degrees in accordance with the stations of the devotees. Since the knowledge of these degrees of tawakkul depends on the knowledge of the various degrees of the devotee's knowledge of their Lord, the Almighty and the Glorious, we cannot avoid discussing them here.

Let it be known to you that one of the esoteric principles of the wayfarers of the Path, without which no progress is possible, is the knowledge of God's Lordship and Mastership and the quality of the sway of the Holy Essence over all affairs. We shall not discuss the theoretical aspect of this issue, for it calls for an examination of questions related to free will and predestination, which is not suitable(apt) for these pages. Here, we will only mention the different degrees of the people's knowledge of it.

People are very different in regard to the knowledge of the Lordship of the Sacred Essence .of God. The commoners among the monotheists consider God Almighty the Creator of the general essences of things and their elements and substances; but they do not believe in the all-embracing Lordship of God, and consider His authority over things as limited. As a matter of verbal habit they may often declare that God decrees all matters and has power over all things, that nothing can come into existence without His sacred Will. Yet, their actual station is not at a par with their verbal profession, neither in respect of knowledge, nor faith, neither experience nor conviction. This class of people, to which we also belong, have no knowledge of God's Lordship; their faith in tawhid is deficient and the sovereignty of the Lord is concealed from their sight by the veils of apparent causation. Hence they do not occupy the station of tawakkul, which is our concern here, except on the level of mere verbal claim. Accordingly, they do not rely in their worldly affairs on anything except the superficial causes and material factors. If sometimes they turn their attention to God and beseech something of Him, that is either on account of imitation or for reasons of caution; since not only they see no harm in it but allow a possibility of benefit. Thus there is a scent of tawakkul in them, although whenever they deem the apparent causal factors as favourable they totally forget God and His efficacy.

Now that which is staid regarding tawakkul, that it is not opposed to action and effort is quite right and in accordance with reason as well as revelation. But to fail to see God's Lordship and His efficacy and to consider material causes as independent is contrary to tawakkul. Although this kind of people are devoid of tawakkul in respect to their worldly affairs, they make vigorous claims of tawakkul when it comes to the matters of the Hereafter. They justify their sluggishness and neglect in the matters of acquisition of transcendental knowledge, spiritual development and fulfilment of moral and devotional duties by easy professions of reliance on God and tawakkul on His beneficence. With such verbal declarations as `God is great' and `My trust lies in God's beneficence' they hope to attain the stations of the Hereafter. However, in regard to worldly matters, they declare, "Effort and endeavour are not contrary to tawakkul on God and reliance upon His munificence." This is nothing except one of the guiles of the carnal self and the Devil. For this sort has tawakkul on God neither in the matters of the world nor in the affairs of the Hereafter. But since they consider worldly matters as paramount, they put their reliance on material causes, not relying on God and His efficacy. On the other hand, since the affairs of the Hereafter are not important in their eyes and as they have no real faith in the Day of Resurrection and its details, they conjure up pretexts to conceal their neglect. Hence they say, `God is great', and they declare trust in God and faith in the intercession of the Intercessors, although such professions are nothing but desolate(barren) verbiage and meaningless oscillations of the tongue.

There is another class of people, who, having been convinced either by reason or revelation, affirm that God Almighty is the sole determiner of matters, the cause of all causes, efficacious in the realm of being, there being no limit to His power and influence. On the level of rational belief, they have tawakkul in God; that is the complete grounds of tawakkulhave been furnished for them by reason and revelation. Hence they consider themselves as mutawakkil and are able to supply rational proofs in justification of tawakkul, having confirmed rational conviction in all the essential preliminaries oftawakkul, which are: God's knowledge of the needs of His creatures; His power and ability to satisfy those needs; His freedom from stinginess; and His Love and mercy for His creatures. On the basis of these, it is necessary to have trust on the Omnicient, Powerful, unniggardly and Merciful Lord, Who takes care to provide whatever is good for His creatures and in their interest, Who does not allow them to remain deprived of what is good for them, even though they themselves should be incapable of distinguishing between that which is beneficial or harmful for them.

This group, although they are mutawakkil on the level of rational knowledge, has not yet attained the stage of faith; they are shaky when confronted with the matters of life. There is a conflict(fight) between their reason and their heart, in which reason is dominated by the heart which has faith in material causes and is blind to God's power and efficacy.

There is a third group in which the conviction in God's sway over creation has penetrated into the heart, which has firm(fight) faith in God's Sovereignty and Mastership over things. The pen of reason has inscribed all the essentials oftawakkul on the tablet of their heart. It is they who possess the station of tawakkul. But the members of this group also differ from one another in regard to the level and degree of faith, whose highest degree is contentment (itminan) at which the most perfect degree of tawakkul appears in their heart. Then, their heart is detached from causation and attached to the Lordship of God, on Whom they rely and in Whom they-are content, in accordance with the words of the mystic who defined tawakkul as "casting the body away in servitude to God and attaching the heart to His Lordship."

That which was mentioned above holds true in the case when the heart still dwells in the stage of plurality (kathrat-e af'ar) otherwise it leaves astern the station of tawakkul to attain to a higher station whose discussion lies outside the scope of this exposition.

Thus, it was seen that tawakkul has various stages and degrees, and perhaps the degree of tawakkul referred to in the hadith is the one pertaining to the second group, for it mentions knowledge as its preliminary condition. Or perhaps it refers to a degree of tawakkul according to some other mode of gradation, for tawakkul is amenable to another kind of gradation, as described in relation with the various stages of wayfaring by the experts of mystics knowledge and spiritual discipline, as a gradual gradation from plurality to unity; for absolute extinction (fana'-e mutlaq-e af`ali) is not attained instantaneously but gradually. In the first stage, the wayfarer observes unity in his own self and then in all other beings. The stations of tawakkul, rida, taslim and all the other stations are attainable gradually. The wayfarer may at first exercise tawakkul in some of his affairs and with respect to hidden and unobservable causes. Then, gradually, histawakkul becomes general, in that it extends from hidden and inner causes to manifest and observable ones and from his own affairs to that of his relatives and associates. Accordingly, it is stated in the holy tradition that one of the degrees of tawakkul is trust in God in all one's affairs.

The Difference Between Tawakkul and Rida:

Let it be known to you that the station of rida is different from the station of tawakkul, being higher and more luminous. This is because whereas the mutawakkil seeks his own good and benefit and entrust his affairs to God considering Him the provider of good, the radi (one who has attained the station of rida) is one who has annihilated his will in the Divine Will, having no more a separate will of his own. When a mystic was asked, "Matur'id" ? (What is your wish?), he replied,"Urid an la urid " (My wish is not to wish at all). What he meant is the station of rida.

As to the words of the Imam (A) in the hadith, "that you should be well-pleased (radiyan) with whatever God does to you," they do not refer to the station of rida. Hence, he (A) says thereafter, "Know for certain that whatever He does to you, your good and benefit lies therein." It appears that the Imams (A) intended to bring about the station of tawakkulin the listener. For this he mentions certain preliminaries. First, he (A) says, "Know that He does not cease to be good and benign towards you." Then he (A) says, "Know that the authority therein lies with Him." Of course, one who knows that God Almighty has power over everything and that He does not cease to be graceful(elegant) and benign, he would attain to the station of tawakkul, because the two main pillars of tawakkul are the same as stated by the Imam (A); although he (A) does not explicitly state the other two or three pillars. After mentioning the explicit and implicit preliminaries - that whatever God Almighty does is welcome because in it lies one's good and benefit - the preliminaries which guide to the station of tawakkul, he (A) draws the conclusion and says: "Then have tawakkul on God."

Tafwid, Tawakkul and Thiqah:

Know that tafwid is also different from tawakkul, and so also thiqah is different from these two. Hence each of the three has been considered a different station on the wayfarer's path. The Khwajah says: [3]

That is, tafwid is subtler and more refined than tawakkul, for tawfid, means that the devotee should see no power and capacity in himself and that he should consider himself ineffectual and regard God as All-effectual. This is not so intawakkul, for the mutawakkil makes God his own substitute, one in charge of his affairs, for attaining that which is favorable and gainful. Tafwid is wider and tawakkul is a branch of it, because tawakkul is in regard to one's interests andtafwid is in regard to absolutely all the affairs.

Moreover, tawakkul does not occur except after the presence of its cause, that is the matter in regard to which the devotee comes to rely upon God. An example of it is the tawakkul of the Apostle (S) and his Companions in regard to security from the evil of the idolaters, at the time when they were told:

Those unto whom men said, 'Lo! the people have gathered against you, therefore fear them'. But it increased them in faith and they said, 'God is sufficient for us and an excellent trustee is He'.(3:173)

Tafwid, however, is mostly(mainly)  antecedent to its referent cause, as indicated by the supplication narrated from the Apostle of God (S):

My God, I surrender my self to Thee; I seek refuge with Thee, and I hand over my matter to Thee.

At times tafwid is subsequent to the occurrence of its cause, such as in the case. of the tafwid of the believer belonging to the Pharaoh's people (40:44).

The account given above is a condensed translation of the exposition by the famous `arif `Abd al-Razzaq Kashani of the words of the perfect `arif Khwajah `Abd Allah al-'Ansari, and that which the Khwajah says is also substantially the same. However, I have reservations about considering tawakkul to be a branch of tafwid, and there is an obvious lack of rigour in regarding tafwid as being the more general of the two. Also, there is no reason to regard tawakkul as being subsequent to the cause, for tawakkul can be both antecedent as well as subsequent.

As to the words of the holy tradition,possibly, since tawakkul is accompanied by viewing oneself as being in charge of one's affairs - because in tawakkul one makes God one's wakil in an affair that he deems as pertaining to himself - the Imam (A) wished to lift(handle) the questioner from the station of tawakkul to that of tafwid, making him understand that God Almighty is not your substitute and deputy in regard to the charge(assignment) of your affairs; rather, He is the master of His own realm and the Lord of His own kingdom (to which you and your affairs belong). In Manazil al-sai'rin, the Khwajah has also pointed out this while discussing the third degree of tawakkul.

And as to thiqah (reliance), it is different from tawakkul and tafwid, as the Khwajah says:

Thiqah is the eye of tawakkul, the (moving) point of the circle of tafwid, and the inmost heart of taslim (surrender). [4]

That is, the three stations cannot be attained without thiqah. Rather thiqah on God Almighty is the soul of those stations, and the devotee cannot attain them without thiqah. This allows us to understand the Imam's allusion to it, after the mention of tawakkul and tafwid, when he says:

[1]. Usul al-Kafi (Akhundi), ii, 391, hadith 3.

[2]. Khwajah 'Abd Allah al-'Ansari, Manazil al-sa'irin.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. I

 

 

...Thiqat al-'Islam wa 'Imad at-Muslimin Muhammad ibn Ya'qub (al-Kulayni): From a number of our companions, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from 'Ali ibn Hadid, from Mansur ibn Yunus, from al-Harith ibn al-Mughirah or his father, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) (al-'Imam al-Sadiq). Al-Harith, or his father, says: "I asked him (A), 'What was (mentioned) in the testament of Luqman?' 'There were marvellous things in it', he said, 'and the most wonderful of that which he said to his son was this: "Have such a fear of God Almighty that were you to come to Him with the virtues of the two worlds(thaqalan) He would still chastise you, and put such a hope in God that were you to come to Him with the sins of the two worlds He would still have compassion for you." Then Abu 'Abd Allah (A) added: 'My father used to say, "There is no believer who does not have two lights in his heart: the light of fear and the light of hope. Were one of these to be measured it would not exceed the other, and were the other one to be measured, it would not exceed this one."" [1]

Exposition:

According to al-Jawhari in his al-Sihah, a'ajib is the plural of u`jubah, in the same way as ahadith isthe plural of uhduthah. Some lexicographers state that u'jubah is something amazing(staggering), either on account of its beauty or its ugliness, and the former (i.e. beauty) is meant in this tradition. It appears that the word primarily has the specific sense of something of striking beauty, and is used in a wider sense. parasitically. Birr is the opposite of `uquq, disobedience. , means so and so is obedient to his Creator, as pointed out by al-Jawhari. `Thaqalan' means mankind and the Jinn.

This noble hadith means that the fear of God and hope in Him should be at the highest degree. Despairing of Divine mercy and considering oneself secure from God's devising (makr) are totally prohibited, as indicated(gestured) by a great number of traditions and explicitly stated by the Noble Qur'an. Secondly, none of these should exceed the other. God willing, we shall elaborate upon this and other aspects of the holy tradition in the course of a few sections.

Between Hope and Fear:

Let it be known to you that the man cognizant of the realities and the relationship between possible existents (mumkin al-wujud) and the Necessary Being (wajib al-wujud), exalted and sublime is He, holds a two-sided viewpoint: The first thing he has in view is the essential defectiveness of his own, of all possible beings, and the wretchedness of the entire universe. Through direct experience or through indirect knowledge he discovers that the entire existence of a possible being is immersed in lowliness and want, drowned in the dark ocean of possibility, poverty and need, always and for ever. The possible existents have nothing of their own: they are utterly insignificant, thoroughly devoid of majesty, and absolutely defective. Rather, none of these expressions can adequately express their utter neediness, and we use them for lack of proper words. Otherwise, defectiveness, poverty and need are a part of the quality of thingness. None of the possible beings and none of tile creatures has anything that is its own. Accordingly, even if a man were to accomplish all the worships, follow(pursue) all the Divine teachings and obey the Holy Lord most perfectly and meticulously, he has nothing but shame, humiliation and fear to his share. What obedience can lie offer? what worship? from whom? and to whom? Are not all the attributes of excellence His own, without the possible having any share whatsoever therein? Rather when the possible being approaches the threshold of these excellences, in order to praise God Almighty, it throws the shadow(stalk) of its defectiveness on His praise and soils the purity and infinitude of His holy Names. It is regarding this station (of finitude and possibility vis-a-vis the infinitude of the Necessary Being) that He declares:

Whatever good visits thee, it is from God; whatever evil visits thee is of thyself. (4:79)

And it is regarding the first station (of the absolute neediness of the possible existent) that He declares:

Say (O Muhammad): 'Everything is from God'. (4:78)

And it is about. these stations that the poet (Hafiz) says:

Our master said, 'The pen of creation did not make any error'.

Praised be the immaculate eye that conceals all defects!

The statement of the mystic master (pir) relates to the second station, and the statement of the speaker himself relates to the first one. Hence, this view(scenery) fills mall with dread, grief, shame and humiliation.

In the other view, he beholds the Perfection of the Necessary Being, the expanse of His mercy, compassion and love. Therein, he sees the unlimited vastness of His various bounties and favours whose number is beyond limit and number and which are bestowed without any prior capacity or deservedness (on the recipient's part). He has opened the doors of favour and bounty on His creatures without any deservedness. The initiative lies with His bounteousness, which precedes request and demand. The Imam Sayyid al-Sajidin Zayn al-`Abidin (A) in the prayers of al-Sahifat al-Kamilah and his other prayers has recurringly pointed out this matter.

This view gives strength to his hope, making him hopeful of Divine mercy. He sees his magnanimous Lord Whose bequests are purely due to His care and compassion, the Lord of all kings Who bestows without asking and prior to the receiver's capacity. All the intellects fall short in knowing even an iota of His nobility. The disobedience of the sinners cots not cause any disturbance iii the order of Isis vast(huge) dominion, and the obedience of the obedient does not add anything to it. Rather, the guidance of the Holiest Essence to the paths of obedience, anti. His prohibition of disobedience, ate for the sake of the creatures, in order that they may attain to His beneficence, His vast(massive) mercy and bounty, that they may attain the stations of perfection and higher degrees of freedom from defect, deformity and ugliness. Hence, should it be that when tomorrow when we enter the court of the Almighty and stand in the presence of His compassion and mercy, we should be able to say: "O God, Who clothed us with the robes of existence and provided us all the means of our life and comfort, over and above the perception of perceivers, Who showed to us all the paths of guidance - all these of Your favours were for our own good and in order to benefit us further from the vast store of Your love and bounty. Now that we stand in Your glorious and magnanimous presence, we have come with the sins of the two worlds. Yet the sins of the sinners have not created any defect in the order of Your dominion, nor diminished the infinitude of Your mercy. What will You have for this handful of dust, that has no significance in front of Your greatness, except pity and compassion? Can anything except pity and compassion be hoped from You, O Lord?"

Hence, man should always be moving back and forth between these two views: neither should he ever close his eyes to his defects and shortcomings in fulfilling the duties of creaturehood, nor should he ever take his eyes off the expansive and all-encompassing mercy, love and compassion of God Almighty.

The Stages and Degrees of Fear:

My dear, know that there are various levels and degrees of fear and hope in accordance with the condition of persons and the level of their knowledge (ma`rifah). The fear of the common people is in regard to chastisement. The fear of the elect is in regard to the wrath. The fear of the elect of the elect is from concealment (ihtijab) (i.e. deprivation from beatitude). Here, it is not our purpose to describe these stations and we will confine our discourse to certain points pertinent to what has been said earlier.

You should know that no creature can worship God Almighty as He deserves to be worshipped; for worship means extolling the praise of that Sacred Essence, and the praise offered by every creature is derived from its knowledge of Him, which in reality does not apprehend His Sacred Essence. Thus, it is not possible for them to praise His beauty and grandeur. Hence the Noblest of creatures and the Most knowledgeable of beings about His Lordship (i.e. the Prophet [S]), confesses his inadequacy in this regard, and declares:

We did not worship You as You deserve to be worshipped. And we did not know You as You deserve to he known. [2]

The second sentence is intended to explain the cause of what is stated in the first one. And he (S) said:

You are as You have praised Yourself [3]

Therefore, imperfection is essential to possible being and Absolute Sublimity belongs exclusively to the Sacred Essence of the Almighty. And since the creatures are unable to attain to the praise and worship of the Sacred Essence without the knowledge and worship of God, none of them can attain to the degrees of perfection and the stations of the Hereafter (as has been demonstrated in its own place for the knowers of the Hereafter, and in regard to which the common people are oblivious, as they consider the Hereafterly stations as extravagances and the like, and regarding their fancies it must be said, 'High indeed is He exalted above that (they say)'!), God Almighty, with His expansive favour and His all-inclusive compassion, opened a door of His mercy upon them, out of His love, of the teachings regarding the hidden and of revelation and inspiration, through His angels and prophets. That is the door of worship (`ibadah) and knowledge (ma`rifah). He, thus, indicated the paths of worship to His servants and threw open the road of knowledge to them, that they may, as far as is possible, remove their shortcomings and defects and attain to the possible degrees of perfection, that they may be guided by the light of servitude to the world of Divine magnanimity, to the domain of the spirit and the aroma, to the paradise of His bounties, or, rather, to the good pleasure of God, which is greater than all that.

Thus, the opening of the gates of worship and service is one of the greatest of bounties, for which the creatures owe their deepest gratitude, although it is a favour for which they can never offer adequate thanks, for each expression of gratitude is itself the key that opens a further door to sublimity. Thus, they are ever incapable of offering adequate thanks for His bounties.

Thus when man attains the knowledge of this fountainhead and his heart becomes familiar with it, he confesses to his own shortcoming, and even if he is able to enter into the court of the Almighty with a record of service and worship equal to that of the worship and service of all mankind, Jinn, and angels near to God, he would still be fearful and conscious of inadequacy. Also, the knowing servants of God and His elect friends, on whom the sacred doors of Providence have been opened and whose hearts have been illumined by the light of marifah - their hearts are so full of dread and trembling that even if all tree excellences were accessible to them, and were all the keys to the treasures of Divine knowledge be given them, and should their hearts be filled with Divine irradiation, that would not reduce their fear by an atom's weight nor diminish the trembling of their quaking hearts. Hence- one of them says. `All are afraid of the End, and I am dreadful of the beginning.' may glory be to God, and there is no power or might which is not by God! I seek refuge in God Almighty! God knows, these words tear a man's heart to pieces. They make the heart melt, and take away his wits. But, alas! How negligent is man!

Another thing is that which we mentioned while expounding an earlier tradition, that all our obedience and worship are for the sake of selfish aims and motivated by self-love. In reality, it is abstinence from the world for the sake of the rewards of the Hereafter - which, nevertheless, for free men, is abstinence from the world for worldly rewards. Hence, were we to come to our Lord with the worship of the two worlds, we would not deserve anything except expulsion from the Divine proximity. This is because, God, the Blessed and the Exalted, has invited us into His sacred proximity and love, declaring, `I have created thee for Myself'. He has made the knowledge of Him the end of our creation and shown to us the paths of knowledge and servitude. Despite it, all that we are occupied with is catering to our belly and our carnal lusts, with no purpose in view except self-seeking and self-love!

Then, O wretched man, whose worship and devotion do not entitle thee to anything except expulsion and remoteness from His sanctified proximity and to His wrath and chastisement! What have thee to rely upon? Why, shouldn't the fear of God's Might unsettle you and make your heart bleed? Do you, have anything to rely upon? Do you rely upon your works and trust your deeds? If that be so, woe to you and your estimation of yourself! And woe to you for your estimation of the Master of all masters! However, should your reliance and trust be upon the bounty of your Lord, His expansive compassion and the all-inclusive love of the Sacred Essence, your reliance is indeed well placed; you have relied upon a truly reliable thing, and have sought a firm refuge.

Hope and Prayer:

O God! O Lord! Our hands are empty, and we know that we are imperfect and insignificant. We have nothing that is worthy of Thy sacred court. We are faulty, head to foot, and full of defects. Our inward and outward being is soaked in mortal sins, deserving eternal damnation. What are we that we should be worthy of praising Thee, when Thy friends (awliya') declare:

How shall I thank Thee with this dumb tongue of mine?

and confess to their incapacity, weakness and shortcoming? What can we, blindfolded sinners that we are, have to say about His Majesty, except declaring with the inconsequent oscillations of our tongue: "Our hope lies with Your mercy and our reliance in Your favour and forgiveness, and our trust in the generosity and magnanimity of Your Holy Essence, as expressed in the prayers of Your friends:

 

Al-Kulayni, in al-Kafi, reports with his chain of narrators from al-'Imam al Baqir (A) that he said, "The Messenger of Allah (S) said: ' God, the Sublime and the Blessed, said: "The workers (of deeds) for My sake should not, for My reward, trust the works they have done: for, verily, should they labour and toil for all their lives in My service and worship, they would fall short in their worship and will not attain to the reality of My service in what they seek with Me of My magnanimity and bounty, My paradise and the high stations in My proximity. Rather, they should rely upon My mercy and put hope in My favour and be contented of their good opinion (husn al-zann) of Me; for, verily, therein My mercy will reach them, My good pleasure will go forth to them, and My forgiveness shall envelop them. For, indeed, I am Allah, the Beneficent and the Merciful, and I have been named so on that account "."' [4]

 

Contemplation, Fear and Hope:

Of things that cause fear of God, is contemplation of the extremeness of Divine Might, the precision(exactness) and sharpness of the path (sirat) of the Hereafter and the perils that man has to face during the days of his life and at death, as well as the hardships of the Purgatory (barzakh)and the Resurrection and the scrutinies of the Reckoning (hisab) and the Balance (mizan). In the same way, reflection over the verses and traditions about the promises of God Almighty can bring about complete and perfect hope. It is reported in traditions that on the Day of Resurrection God Almighty's mercy shall be so abundant(lavish) that even Satan will aspire for God's pardon. In this world, at which God has never looked with favour, and on which since its creation His mercy has not descended (in comparison to the other worlds) except for a droplet of it, we encounter so much of the abundance of God's mercy, bounty and care, which has enveloped everything, apparent and the invisible, that the world is a vast table of the bounties and gifts of the Almighty, so widespread that were all the world's intellects attempt to encompass even a fragment of it, they would be unable to do so. If this is so, then what would be a world which is the house of the hospitality of the generous Lord and the abode of the expansive mercy and compassion of the All-merciful and the Compassionate? Of course, .Satan would be justified in his aspiring for His pity and his hoping from God's generosity. Hence, make perfect your good opinion of Him and rely upon His grace, as He has declared:

Verily, God shall forgive all the sins. (39:53)

and immerse all in the ocean of His mercy and beneficence. It is impossible that God should break His promise, although it is possible that He may withdraw His threats(menaces), and how often He does that! So gladden your heart with the hope of His mercy, for had it not enveloped you, you would not be a creature; every creature is the recipient of His mercy, for He has said:

...My mercy embraces all things. (7:156)

The Difference Between Hope and Delusion:

However, my dear, you should be careful of distinguishing between hope and delusion, for it may be that you be a deluded man, but imagine yourself to be a man of hope. Yet it is easy to distinguish between them on the basis of their grounds. You should reflect over the state of yours that makes you regard it as hope, to see whether that state of yours has come into being as a result of your belittling of Divine commands or as a result of conviction in the all-embracing character of Divine mercy and the greatness of the Holy Essence. Should that prove to be difficult, the distinction can be made on the basis of their effects. Should the greatness of God be imprinted on the believer's heart and should it be content in the expansive mercy and bounty of His Holy Essence, he would be committed to His obedience and service, for esteem for someone great and gratitude and willingness to serve one's benefactor are inviolable features of human nature. Hence, should you be committed to the duties of slavehood and unsparing in your efforts to obey and worship; should you not rely on your works and consider them insignificant; should your hope rest on God's mercy, grace and bounty; should you consider yourself entitled to every kind of blame, disfavour, reproof and wrath on account of your deeds; and should your sole reliance be the mercy and generosity of the Absolutely Magnanimous - should you be such, then you are indeed in possession of the state of hope. Then, thank God Almighty for that, and implore His Holy Essence to establish it firmly in your heart and to elevate you to a higher degree of it. But if, God forbid, should you be one who belittles and takes lightly the commands of God, one who considers unimportant and insignificant the Words of the Holiest Essence, then rest assured that it is delusion that has appeared in your heart as a result of the guiles of Satan and your carnal self. Had you any faith in God's greatness and His expansive mercy, its effects would have been obvious in you. A claimant whose acts are contrary to his claims is one who falsifies himself, and there are many traditions to this effect.

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni, with his chain of narrators, reports from al-'Imam al Sadiq (A) on the authority of an unnamed narrator who narrated it to Ibn Abi Najran, that he said to the Imam (A): "There are some people who commit sins and say we are hopeful. They remain in this condition until death comes to them." The Imam said: "They are a people who have been swept away by false hopes. They lie, they are not the hopeful; for verily, one who has hope of something pursues it, and one who fears something flees from it." [5]

Close to this in meaning is another tradition of the noble al-Kafi:

(Al-Kulayni), with his chain of narrators reports from al-Husayn ibn Abi Sarah that he said: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah (A) say: `A believer is not but fearful and hopeful, and he is not (truly) fearful and hopeful unless he responds in action in regard to that which he fears and hopes.' " [6]

Some have said that the person who is hopeful without doing anything is like the one who awaits the result without preparing its needed means, like the farmer(peasant) who awaits a ready harvest without sowing the seeds, without tilling and watering his land(landscape) and without removing the hindrances in the way of a sufficient produce. Such a man cannot be said to have hope. What characterizes him is stupidity and folly. The similitude of the person who does not reform his morals and acts without refraining from sins, is the farmer who sows his seeds in barren, saline soil: of course, such farming(farmstead) does not yield any produce.

Therefore, the genuine kind of hope is that man should first prepare all the means that are available to him and have been provided to him by the grace of God Almighty, Who has also guided him regarding the paths of right and corrupt conduct and commanded him to make ready those means, and only then he should wait and hope that God, with His favour, will provide the remaining means over which he has no power, and remove the hindrances and perils from his path. Hence, when the devotee has cleared the field of his heart of the thorns of moral vices and of the stones, rocks and salinity of sins, sowing therein the seeds of good works and watering it with the clear waters of lucrative knowledge and sincere faith and guarded his field against the pests of pride (`ujb) and ostentation (riya'), which like weeds hinder the wholesome growth of the harvest, then he may sit and wait for God's grace, hoping that the Almighty may keep him firm(taut) and on the straight path until the last moment of his life. This is the desired and genuine kind of hope, as declared by God Almighty:

But the believers, and those who migrate and struggle in the way of God -those have hope of God's compassion; and God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. (2:213)

The noble tradition at its end mentions that neither fear(nervousness) nor hope should exceed one another, and the same thing is stated in the mursal hadith of Ibn Abi `Umayr from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A). When man observes his extreme shortcoming in fulfilling the demands of servitude and creaturehood and when he contemplates the narrowness of the path of the Hereafter, a high degree of fear seizes him. And when he observes his own sins and reflects over the condition of those persons who were righteous at the start but fell into wretchedness and departed from the world in a state of unbelief and without good works, ultimately meeting an evil goal, his fear is intensified. And in a noble tradition of al-Kafi, al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) is reported to have said:

...The believer stands between two dreadful things: the past sins, regarding which he does not know what God will do (with him), and the remainder of his life, regarding which he does not know what mortal sins he will commit therein. So he does not wake up except in a state of dread, and nothing keeps him righteous except fear. [7]

The same thing is stated in the sermon of the Noble Messenger (S) reported in a hadith of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) in al-Kafi. [8] The gist of the matter is that the self is in a state of utter imperfection and shortcoming, and God at the height of greatness, glory, all-embracing mercifulness and grace, and the devotee is always in a median state of fear and hope between these two views. And since the Divine attributes of glory and perfection cast their light simultaneously on the wayfarer's heart, none of the two, fear or hope, exceeds the other.

Some have said that sometimes fear is more beneficial for man -as in the state of health and robustness - in order that he may endeavour in attaining perfection and performing good works, and that hope is better in some conditions - as when the signs of approaching death appear - so that man may meet God in a state which He loves more. But this opinion does not agree with the above discussion and the traditions mentioned, for the genuine and lovable hope also induces one to good works and hereafterly conduct. Fear of God is also always desirable and is not contrary to confirmed hope in Him.

And some have said that fear is not a moral or intellectual merit in the Hereafter, and that its benefit is limited to the world, which is the abode of works and; deeds, for inducing obedience and service and for restraining men from sin. It is of no use after this world is left behind. On the other hand, hope rill never end and shall endure(withstand) in the Hereafter, for the more of God's beneficence man receives, the more does he aspire to 'His grace and bounty, because the stores of God's mercy axe inexhaustible. Hence, fear comes to an end, while hope continues.

The Opinion of Al-Majlisi:

The great muhaddith al-'Allamah al-Majlisi, upon whom be God's mercy, says: "The truth is that as long as the devotee is in the abode of duty (i.e. this world), he is bound to have both fear and hope. However, after his witnessing of the matters of the Hereafter, one of them, of necessity(urgency) , must surpass the other."

This writer says: That which has been said regarding the dominance of fear or hope in the Hereafter does not agree with the above discussion about the meaning of hope and fear. Even if supposedly true, it would apply only to those of middle stations, for the state of the elect and the awliya' is different from that; for their witnessing of the Divine majesty and glory and the irradiations (tajilliyat) of the Names of love and beauty, which are attained in the heart, are not effaced by the witnessing of the matters of the Hereafter; as a result their fear and hope do not surpass each other. Rather, the effects of Divine majesty and glory and the irradiations of His beauty and love are greater in the world of the Hereafter, and the awe resulting from God's majesty is one of the spiritual pleasures, which on reflection will not be found to be contrary to the noble verse:

Surely God's friends - no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. (10:62)

And that which has been said regarding fear, that it is not a spiritual merit -- it is not true of the awe in front of God's greatness and glory, for it is an excellence and is more intense in those of perfect and complete character (kamilun, mukammalun) than others. And praise belongs to Allah, for His majesty and His beauty, and may His benedictions be upon Muhammad and his Family.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, ed. 'Ali Akbar al-Ghifari, 4th edition, Dar Mus'ab Dar al-Ta'aruf, Beirut, 1401 H., II, 67, hadith 1.

[2]. Safinat al-Bihar, II, 180.

[3]. Ibid., p. 181.

[4]. Al-Kafi, II, 71, hadith 1.

[5]. Ibid., II, 68, hadith 5.

[6]. Ibid., II, 71, hadith 11, from al-Hasan ibn Sarah.

[7]. Ibid., hadith 12.

[8]. Ibid., hadith 2.


  ...Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni - may God be pleased with him - from `Ali ibn Ibrahim, from his father, from Ibn Mahbub, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he (A) said: "Verily, it is mentioned in the Book of 'Ali that of all mankind the prophets undergo the severest of trials, and after them the awsiya', and after them the elect to the extent of their nobility. Indeed, the believer undergoes trial in proportion to his good deeds. So one whose faith is sound and whose deeds are good, his trials are also more severe. That is indeed because God Almighty did not make this world a place for rewarding the believer and punishing the unbeliever. And one whose faith is feeble(flimsy) and whose (good) deeds are few faces fewer tribulations. Verily, tribulations hasten towards the believer with greater speed than rainwater towards the earth's depths. 
[1]

Exposition:

Some have said by nas (people, mankind) in this noble tradition and its like are meant perfect human beings (kamilun) such as the prophets and the awsiya', and that in reality it is they who are the nas, whereas other people are lil-nas (for the people), as mentioned in some traditions. However, that interpretation does not apply here and it seems proper that mankind and people in general should have been meant in this place. This is evident from the other traditions of this chapter of al-Kafi, and if it has been said in some traditions that by nas are meant the kamilun, it does not mean that the word has this meaning in every place that it occurs. Also, bala' means trial, test and examination, and it applies to the good as well as the bad among people, and the lexicographers have stated this expressly. Al-Jawhari in al-Sihahsays in this regard: And God Almighty' says: ( ... And that He may try the believers with a fair trial) (8:17) All that with which God, to Whom belongs Glory and Majesty, tries His servants is bala' and ibtila', whether it is one of the diseases and ailments, or adversities like poverty, humiliation and loss of worldly fortunes, or a thing of an opposite kind such as acquisition of power and glory, wealth, riches, high status, honour, and the like. However, whenever bala', baliyyah oribtila' and the like are mentioned, it is the former kind of things that are meant.

Amthal means `nobler and better: Hence, the phrase means that one who is better and nobler after the prophets and the awsiya' has to face a severer kind of bala' than the others, and those who are better and nobler than others after them have to face a severer degree of trial. The degree of the severity of bala' is in accordance with the decree of merit. This kind of expression (i.e., like ) does not exist in Persian.

`Sukhf' means `feebleness of the rational faculty' or `foolishness', as mentioned by al-Sihah, and other lexicographical works. Qarar means `resting place,' as mentioned in the dictionaries: The apology means that in the same way as the earth is the resting place where rainwater comes to rest and abide, the believer is the resting place of sufferings and tribulations, which rush toward him, come to rest in him, and do not depart from him. God willing, we will mention that which is needed for the exposition of this noble tradition in the course of a few sections.

The Meaning of Trial:

Let it be known to you that the human souls exist at a level of potentiality from the beginning of their origin, their attachment to the bodies, and their descent to the realm of corporeal existence (mulk), in respect of all things, including knowledge, good and evil traits, and all kinds of perceptive and behavioural faculties. Gradually they move from potentiality to actuality with the grace of God, the Almighty and the Sublime. At first, weak impressions related to particulars (as opposed to universals) emerge in the soul, such as impressions of touch and other outward senses, moving from the lower to the higher. Following that, the inward perceptions also arise in it. However, all its faculties exist only at a level of potentiality, and they do not grow without proper stimulation. For instance, if the base kind of faculties come to dominate it, it becomes disposed to ugliness and evil, for its inner powers, such as shahwah (lust), ghadab(anger), etc., impel it towards sin, licentiousness, aggression and tyranny. After following them for some time it grows into a strange monster and a highly grotesque devil.

However, since the grace and mercy of God Almighty have been accompanying the Children of Adam since eternity, He bestowed upon them two educators and teachers which are like two wings with which they can fly from the depths of ignorance, defectiveness, ugliness and wretchedness to the heights of knowledge, perfection; beauty and felicity, and deliver themselves from the narrow valley of nature to reach the expansive and open horizons of the realms of the spirit(malakut). The first of these is the faculty of intellect and discernment, which is the inner teacher; and the second, the outward teacher, is represented by the prophets and the divine guides who shove(jostle) the path of felicity as distinct from the ways of wretchedness. None of these two can singly achieve this end without the other. For the human intellect by itself can neither identify the paths of felicity and wretchedness nor find the way to the hidden world and the realm of Hereafterly existence. Similarly, the guidance of the prophets cannot be effective without the exercise of the discerning faculties of the intellect.

Thus God, the Beneficent and the Sublime, gave them these two educators so that through them all the potentialities and hidden faculties and capacities, latent in the human soul, should be realized and actualized. God Almighty blessed them with these two great bounties in order to try and test human beings, for it is through these bounties that individual human beings are separated into the felicitous and the wretched, the obedient and the rebellious, the perfect and the defective. And so the Great Wali of God said:

 

And by Him Who sent him (the Prophet (S)) with the Truth, you shall indeed be mixed and intermingled and then separated in the sieve (of Divine trial and tribulation)? [2]

In the noble al-Kafi, in the chapter relating to Divine test and trial (bab al-tamhis wa al-'imtihan), Ibn Abi Ya'fur reports al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) as having said:

It is inevitable that mankind should be purified, separated and sieved so that a great number is excluded by the sieve.[3]

Also al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Mansur the following tradition:

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "O Mansur! Indeed this affair (i.e. the appearance of al-Mahdi (A)) will not come to you except after despair and not, by God, until you have been separated, and not, by God, until you have been purified, and not, by God, until the wretched attain wretchedness and the felicitous attain felicity." [4]

In another tradition, Abu al-Hasan (A) is reported to have said:

You shall be purified in the way gold is purified. [5]

In al-Kafi, bab al-'ibtila' wa al-'ikhtibar, the following tradition is reported with isnad from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

He said: "There is no qabd (extension) and bast (contraction) except that in it there is for God a purpose, a decree, and a trial. [6]

In another tradition he is (A) reported to have said:

Indeed there is no qabd and bast in that which God has commanded or forbidden except that there is in it from God a trial and a decree? [7]

Qabd means imsak (withholding), man` (obstruction, prevention) and akhdh (seizure). Bast is nashr (unfolding, spreading, resurrection) and 'ata' (gift, bestowal). Hence every gift, expansion and obstruction, and every command, prohibition and duty is for the sake of trial.

Thus we came to know that the sending of prophets and the revelation of heavenly scriptures is all for the sake of the separation of humanity, of the separation of the wretched from the happy and the felicitous, of the obedient from the sinful. And the meaning of Divine testing and examination is this very separation of men from one another, not theknowledge of their separateness, because the knowledge of God Almighty is pre-eternal; it encompasses all things prior to their creation. The hukama' have elaborately discussed the reality of trial and ibtila' and it is beyond the scope of this exposition to mention their opinions.

In any case, the result of this trial and examination is the separation of the felicitous from the wretched. In the course of it the proof (hujjah) of God is established against the creatures. Thereafter, their life, felicity and salvation, or their destruction and damnation occurs after the establishment of the proof and testimony (bayyinah), and there remains no room for objection for anyone. One who attains felicity and eternal life does so through Divine succour and guidance, for God has bestowed all the means of attaining them. Also, one who earns wretchedness and falls(drops) into destruction, following Satan and his carnal self, his wretchedness and damnation are also earned by him out of his own free will, because he does so despite the availability of all the means of guidance and felicity. The conclusive proof of God is established against him and there is no room for any pretext. Hence the Qur'an says:

For it (the soul) is what it has earned and against it is what it has merited. (2:286)

The Prophets and Divine Trial:

It was mentioned earlier that every act of the human being, or rather every event that occurs in the realm of the body and is related to the soul's perceptions, leaves a kind of impression in the self. This is true of both good and evil deeds (whose impression upon the soul is mentioned in traditions as the appearance of a `white dot' or a `black dot' respectively) as well as of pleasures and pains. For instance, every experience of pleasure, derived either from food, drink, sex or something else, leaves an impression upon the soul and creates or increases the love and attachment for that kind of, pleasure in the soul. The more that one plunges into such pleasures and lusts, the greater becomes the self's love and attachment for this world and its reliance upon it. Thus the self is nourished with the love of the world and trained in accordance with it. The greater the sensual pleasures that it derives, the stronger become the roots of this love; and the more the available means of comfort and luxury, the sturdier becomes the tree of attachment to the world. And the. more the soul's attention is directed towards the world, the greater is proportionately its negligence toward God and the world of the Hereafter. Thus when this reliance upon the world becomes complete, the soul assumes a worldly and materialistic form, and the absence of attention towards God Almighty and the 'realm of His munificence and bounty also becomes total and complete. It is about such a soul that, the Qur'an says:

...He inclined towards the earth and followed his lust. (7:176)

The inevitable result of this inner immersion in the sea of pleasure and lust is the love of the world, and the love of the world creates antipathy towards that which is unlike it; attention towards the corporeal realm (mulk) brings negligence towards the spiritual world (malakut).

On the contrary, if one has a bad and painful experience of something, the impression of that experience(advendure) creates an antipathy in the soul. The stronger that impression is, the greater is that inward antipathy. For instance, if after moving to a city one has to face there numerous torments and ailments and undergo outer and inner adversities, he will inevitably abhor that place. The greater the number of adversities that he faces therein, the more will be his abhorrence for that place. If he knows a better place, he will migrate to it, and if he is unable to make the journey, his heart will migrate and go out to the city of his liking.

Thus if a man faces adversities, pain and torments in this world and is overtaken therein by waves of calamities(failures) and tribulations, he will inevitably come to resent it. His attachment to it will diminish and he will come to distrust it. If he believed in another world, a vast world free of every kind of pain and grief, he will inevitably want to migrate to it, and if he were unable to make the journey physically, he will send his heart out to it.

Moreover, it is evident that all the spiritual, moral and behavioural evils arise from the love of the world and negligence of God Almighty and the Hereafter. The love of the world is the source of all sins, in the same way as the love of God, the aspiration for the eternal abode of His bounty, the renunciation of the world and absence of reliance upon and trust in its adornments are the source of all spiritual cures and moral and behavioural reform.

After these preliminaries we come to know that whenever God Almighty has a greater consideration and love for someone, and when someone is the object of the mercy of His Sacred Essence to a greater extent, He restrains him from this world and its charms with the waves of calamity and tribulation, so that his soul turns away in disgust from the world and its adornments and turns his face and his heart, to the extent of his faith, toward the world of the Hereafter. If there weren't any other reason except this one for endurance of severe calamities it would have been sufficient, and a noble tradition also points towards this matter.

Al-'Imam al-Baqir (A) said "Verily, God Almighty treats the believer with tribulations in the same way as a man treats his family with gifts after an absence (upon a journey), and He restrains him from the world in the same way as the physician prescribes restraints for the sick man." [8]

The same thing is said in another hadith, and one should not imagine that God's love and the great care of His Sacred Essence for some people is - God be our refuge - extravagant and pointless. Rather, with every step that a faithful servant of God takes towards Him, God's grace turns towards him and the Almighty moves closer to him. The similitude of the degrees of faith and the availability of the means of Divine succour is that of a man moving with a lamp in darkness; with every step that he takes forward(onward), some more of the path in front of him is illuminated, which allows him to take another step forward. With every step that a man takes forward on the path of the Hereafter, that path appears clearer to him and God's grace upon him increases, preparing the means of attention towards the world of Divine proximity and of antipathy towards the world of separation and distance.

The pre-eternal grace of God Almighty upon the prophets and the awliya' is on account of His pre-eternal knowledge of their obedience during their terms of duty. For instance, if you have two children about whom you have prior knowledge in their childhood that one of them will bring you satisfaction while the other will grow up to cause you displeasure and resentment, your love for the obedient child would be greater from the very beginning.

God's Remembrance:

Another point relating to the severity of the tribulations of the elect among God's servants is that they are made to remember God on account of these adversities and tribulations and to pray and lament in front of His Sacred Essence. This makes them accustomed to remember Him and keep their thoughts busy with Him. It is natural for human beings to seek and learn upon what they think is a source of support in times of 'adversity. In times of   reassurance and welfare they forget and neglect it. And since the elect know no source of support other than God, their attention turns towards Him, they putting their sole reliance in His sacred station, and God Almighty, also, with the love that He has for them, prepares the means of that undivided attention and reliance. However, this, as well as the foregoing point, is not true of the prophets and the perfect awliya', for their station is too high in sanctity and their heart too firm in faith for them to develop attachment for worldly things on account of such things (as comfort and welfare) or for them to waver(hesitate) in their sole reliance upon God. This may be so because the prophets and the perfect awliya' have, through their inward light and spiritual experience, ascertained that God Almighty has no regard for this world and its adornments and that everything therein is base and lowly in the eyes of His Sacred Essence, and for this reason they have preferred poverty to wealth, tribulation to reassurance and ease, and adversity to that which is unlike it. Several noble traditions also support this view.

It is mentioned in the hadith that Gabriel brought the key of the earth's treasures to the Seal of the Prophets (S) and said to him (S) that should he (S) accept it, nothing would diminish from his (S) Hereafterly stations. But the Prophet (S) did not accept it for the sake of humility before God Almighty and chose poverty.

In the noble al-Kafi, al-Kulayni, with a chain of transmitters reaching up to al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A), reports the Imam (A) as having said:

Indeed God has so little regard for the unbeliever that should he ask of Him the world and that which is in it, He would give that to him . [9]

And this is due to the worthlessness of the world in the eyes of the Almighty. It is mentioned in the hadith that from the time that the Almighty created the corporeal world, He did not look at it with favour.

Another point related to the severity of the believer's tribulations that has been mentioned in traditions is that there are certain stations for the believers which they cannot attain without undergoing suffering, pain and affliction. It is possible that these afflictions are the corporeal forms of the degrees of renunciation of the world and devotion to God, and it is also possible that these sufferings have celestial forms (suwar-e malakuti) which cannot be realized without their occurrence in the corporeal world and afflictions therein. Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A), in a noble tradition of al-Kafi with a continuous(uninterrupted) chain of transmission going up to him, states:

Verily, the servant has certain stations near God that cannot be realized without one of these two attributes: either the loss of his wealth or affliction in his body. [10]

In a tradition relating to the martyrdom of the Doyen of the Martyrs (al-'Imam al-Husayn) (A) it is mentioned that he (A) saw the Prophet (S) in a dream. The Prophet (S) said to that mazlum, "There is a station for you in the Paradise which you cannot attain except through martyrdom." The celestial form of martyrdom cannot be attained without its occurrence in the corporeal realm, as has been demonstrated in the higher sciences. It is mentioned in mutawatirtraditions that for every action there is a corresponding form in the other world, and al Imam al-Sadiq (A) is reported to have said in al-Kafi that:

The greatness of man's reward goes with the greatness of suffering, and God did not love a people but that He subjected them to suffering. [11]

There are many traditions containing this theme.

 

 The great muhaddith al-Majlisi, upon whom be God's mercy, says:

These traditions relating to the tribulations of the prophets, which have been narrated both through Sunni and Shi'i chains of transmission (turuq), clearly indicate that the prophets and the awliya' differ from others in respect of ailments and bodily afflictions. Rather, they have a greater right than others to suffer on account of their great reward which is responsible for the loftiness of their stations. And this suffering is not only not contrary to their station, it even causes the confirmation of their affair. Should they not undergo afflictions, despite the manifestation of miracles and extraordinary(remarkable) things at their hands, people might say such things about them as the Christians did about their prophet. This explanation is also mentioned in traditions.

The subtle researcher and the great, sacred philosopher al Tusi, may God fill his grave with aroma, states in al-Tajrid: "Of the things that the prophets should be free from is that which is regarded as abhorrent." And the `Allamah of the `ulama' of Islam (al-`Allamah al-Hilli), may God be pleased with him, adds in Sharh al-Tajrid that the prophets should be free from such abhorrent diseases as absence of urinary control, leprosy and leukoderma, for their abhorrent character is contrary to the aim of prophecy.

This writer says: The station of prophethood is subject to spiritual levels and excellences and has no relation to corporeality. Hence physical diseases and defects do no harm to the spiritual station of the prophets and affliction with abhorrent diseases diminishes nothing from the sublimity and greatness of their station, although they may not contribute in a way of confirmation to their (already established) excellences and degrees of sublimity. But that which these two researchers have said is also not devoid of validity. This is because the common people cannot make a distinction between the two stations (of spirituality and corporeality) and imagine that physical defectiveness is related or caused by spiritual defectiveness. Hence they consider some defects as being contrary to the high and great station of the prophets. Hence Divine grace dictates that the prophets who are messengers and bringers of Divine shari'ah should not be afflicted with such diseases as are considered disgusting and abominable by the people. Therefore, the absence of this kind of affliction is not because it is harmful to the station of prophethood, but for the sake of maximizing the effectiveness of the prophetic mission of communicating the Divine teachings (tabligh). Hence there is nothing wrong if some prophets without a shari'ah, great awliya' and the faithful are afflicted with this kind of afflictions, as in the case of Hadrat Ayyub (Job) and Habib al-Najjar. There are many traditions concerning the affliction of Hadrat Ayyub (A), of which are the following two:

'Ali ibn Ibrahim in a long tradition narrates on the authority of Abu Basir that al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "...Then his whole body, excepting his, intellect and his eyes, was subjected to the disease. Then Iblis blew upon it and it became a single wound extending from his head to feet. He (Job) remained for a period in that condition, praising and thanking God, until it became infested with worms. Whenever a worm fell off from his body, he would put it back, saying to it, "Return to your place, from where God created you." And it began to stench until his townsfolk expelled him from his town and his food came from the garbage thrown outside the town."

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports from Abu Basir that he asked al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) about the verse, "When thou recitest the Qur'an, seek refuge in God. from the accursed Satan, he has no authority over those who believe and trust in their Lord; (his authority is over those who take him for their guardian and ascribe associates to God) (16:98-100)" The Imam said, "O Abu Muhammad, by God, He gives authority to him (Satan) over the believer's body but not over his faith (din). He gave him (Satan) authority over Ayyub and Satan disfigured him physically, but He did not give authority to him over his faith. And He does give him authority over the faithful's bodies but not over their faith."

Najiyah says, "I said to Abu Ja'far (A) that al-Mughirah says that a believer is never afflicted with leprosy, leukoderma and such other ailments (is that true?) The Imam replied, `Didn't he know that the Sahib Ya Sin (Habib al-Najjar, the man mentioned in Surat Ya Sin) was mutilated (mukanna')?' He (A) closed his fingers and said, `It is as if I see him go to his people in his mutilated state (takannu') to warn them and come back the next day, when they killed him.' Then he added, `Verily, the believer suffers all kinds of afflictions and dies in all manners of dying except suicide.' " [12]

`Sahib Ya Sin is Habib al-Najjar and takannu` (the word is with nun in most of the manuscripts), according to al-Majlisi, means shortening and mutilation. He adds that it was probably leprosy which had resulted in the shortening of his fingers. However, this, as well as many other ahadith, indicate that the believers and prophets are sometimes afflicted with abominable diseases on account of some higher expediency, although there are some other traditions which negate the disfigurement of Hadrat Ayyub's body and its petrifaction, and not much benefit lies in discussing them further with a view to affecting a reconciliation. On the whole, these kind of diseases do no harm to the condition of believers and do not diminish anything from the station of the prophets (A) rather, they lead to the elevation of their station, and God Almighty knows best the truth.

The World is Not a Place of Reward or Punishment:

Let it be known to you that this world, due to its defective, feeble and weak nature, is neither the abode of the reward of God Almighty nor the place of His chastisement and punishment. This is so because the abode of Divine munificence is a realm whose bounties are pure, unadulterated with torment, and its comforts are not mixed with pain and grief. Such bounties are not possible in this world, which is an abode where contradictories throng together and each of whose bounties is mixed(mixture) with numerous kinds of pains, hardships and torments. Rather, as the philosophers have said, pleasure in this world lies in avoiding pain. It may be said that even its pleasures cause pain and every one of its pleasures is followed by pain and hardship. Rather, the very material of this world lacks the capacity to accept absolute goodness and unadulterated bounty. In the same way, its pains and hardships, torments and punishments are also mixed; each of its pains and hardships carries within itself some goodness and bounty, and none of its afflictions and adversities is unmixed. The very material of this world lacks the capacity to accept pure, absolute punishment, whereas the abode of Divine chastisement is a place where punishment is pure and absolute; its pains and afflictions are not like those of this world, which while they afflict one member of the body are absent from the other members. While the healthy members are in reassurance and ease, the afflicted member suffers pain and agony. The noble tradition partly refers to what we have stated here when it says:

That is, the reason that the believer is afflicted in this world with tribulation is that God Almighty has made it neither the place of His reward for the believer nor the place of chastisement for the infidel. This world is the abode of duty and the farm of the Hereafter. It is a place of trade and earning whereas the Hearafter is the abode of reward and punishment, of bounty and damnation.

Those who expect that God Almighty would immediately get hold of one who commits some sin or indecency in this world or perpetrates some injustice or aggression against someone, and cut his hand off and expunge him from the realm of existence, are unaware that their expectation is contrary to this world's order and opposed to God's wont and sunnah. Here is the place of trial and the zone of the separation of the wretched from the felicitous and the sinful from the obedient. Here is the realm of the manifestation of deeds, not the abode of the emergence of the results of personal deeds and qualities. If occasionally God Almighty does take hold of an oppressor, it may be said that it is due to the Almighty's mercy for that oppressor (for it stops him from sinning further). For, when God Almighty leaves the sinful and the tyrants to themselves, His wrath takes the form of istidraj, the gradual seizing.

Hence God Almighty declares.

(And those who cry lies to Our signs), We will draw them on little by little whence they know not; and I respite them - assuredly My guile is firm. (7:182-183)

And He also says:

And let not the unbelievers suppose that the respite We grant them is better for them; We grant them respite only that they may increase in sin; and there awaits them a humiliating chastisement.(3:178)

In Majma` al-bayan, this tradition is cited from al-Imam al-Sadiq (A):

The Imam (A) said: "When a person commits a sin and the bounty (that he had received) is renewed for him, he leaves off asking for forgiveness (istighfar), and this is al-'istidraj (as mentioned in verse 7 :182)."

At the end of the noble tradition, the Imam (A) says:

...And one whose faith is feeble and his intellect is weak, his tribulation is also slight.

This shows that tribulations are both bodily and spiritual, for the persons of weak intellects and feeble sensibility are secure from spiritual tribulations and intellectual suffering in proportion to their intellectual weakness and the feebleness of their sensibility. On the contrary, those with more complete intellects and acuter sensibility have to undergo spiritual tribulations more intensely in proportion to the perfectness and acuteness of their intellect and sensibility. Perhaps it was for this reason that the Holy Messenger (S) said:

No prophet was tormented to the extent that I was.

This complaint of the Prophet (S) refers to this point, for whoever perceives the greatness and glory of the Lord to a greater extent and knows the sacred station of God Almighty more than others, he suffers more and is tormented to a greater extent by the sins of the creatures and their offences against the Lord's sanctity. Also, one who has a greater love and compassion for the creatures of God is tormented to a greater extent by their crooked and wretched condition and ways. And, of course, the Seal of the Prophets (S) was more perfect in all these stations and higher than all of the prophets and the awliya' in respect of his degree of excellence and perfection. Hence his torment and suffering was greater than that of any one of them. There is also another explanation of the Holy Messenger's statement, whose mention is not appropriate for this place.And God knows best and to Him belongs all the praise.

 

[1]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, vol. II, p.259, hadith No.29.

[2]. Nahj al-balaghah, Khutbah No.16.

[3]. Usul al-Kafi, vol II, p.370, hadith No.2.

[4]. Ibid., hadith No.3.

[5]. Ibid., hadith No.4:

[6]. Ibid., vol. I, p.152.

[7]. Ibid.

[8]. Ibid., vol. II, p.255, hadith No.17.

 

...Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni - may God be pleased with him - from a group of his teachers, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid, from his father, from 'Ali ibn al-Nu'man, from 'Abd Allah ibn Muskan, from Abu Basir, who says: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah (A) say, 'A free human being is free in all circumstances. Should a misfortune befall him he bears it with patience (sabr). If calamities(ruins) strike him, they don't shatter him. If taken captive and subdued; he turns hardship into ease, as was the case of Joseph, the truthful and trustworthy (may God's benedictions be upon him). His freedom saved him from harm, although he was enslaved, subdued, and imprisoned. The darkness of the pit, the dread and whatever befell him did him no harm, until God favoured him and made the insolent tyrant, who had been his master, his slave. Then God made him His apostle and through him was merciful to a people. In this way patience(stamina) is followed by good. So be patient and reconcile yourself to patience in order to be rewarded: " [1]

Exposition:

Naibah' is the singular of nawa'ib, which means `events' and `accidents' and according to al-Sihah means misfortune (musibah). Dakka is synonymous with daqqa, which means `to is conjoined to pound', crush', 'grind', and 'to knock'. Al-Sihah says: . It also remarks, . This world also gives the sense of swarming, crowding and pressing together (ijtima' andizdiham), as mentioned in al-Nihayah. In a hadith, Amir al-Muminin - may peace be upon him - is reported to have said:means . According to al-Nihayah, dakka also means casara (to break). In the present noble tradition, the former meaning is more appropriate in view of the phrase following it, although the second meaning also fits here. The preposition insignifies wusliyyah and is conjoined to it. Al Majlisi - may God's mercy be upon him - states that it is in some manuscripts, and is accordingly conjoined to , thus making it the result of sabr. The phrase is the passive participle and is the active subject of the verbal sentence. In Mir'at al Uqul it is , and appears as in Wasa'il al-Shi'ah. It seems that it is a calligraphers error in the manuscript of the Mir'at , although its meaning is not totally invalid. However, that which is in Wasa'il is more in agreement with the totality and content of the noble tradition. is conjoined to , implying that Joseph was not harmed by that which he suffered at his brothers hands, nor by grief and adversity. As to the phrase, , it appears that it involves the ellipsis of (until) and relates to in two possible yet conflicting ways. Al-Majlisi - may God be merciful to him - has mentioned several possible meanings of it whose description is not devoid of prolixity. The meaning of the master of Joseph (A) becoming his slave is that he became subservient and obedient to him (A).

Desire, the Source of All Bondage:

Let it be known to you that in a man subjugated to the domination of lust and carnal desire, his servitude, servility and indignity increase in proportion to the intensity of their domination; for servitude means complete submission and obedience. The man obedient to lusts and subjugated to the carnal self is their obedient slave. He submissively obeys whatever they command and is a humble and obedient servant and slave in front of them. This obedience reaches a limit when he prefers obedience to them to obedience to the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He prefers their service to the service of the real King of kind. In that state, honour, dignity and freedom depart from his heart on which then settle the dusts of indignity, destitution and servitude. He becomes humble before worldly people and his heart bows down in prostration before them and before the possessors of worldly power and glory. In order to achieve the objects of his carnal desires and to satisfy the craving of his belly and underneath, he submits to all kinds of disgrace and indignities. As long as he remains in the bondage of lust and the carnal self, he does not abstain from violating the demands of honour, freedom and chivalry. He readily submits to the obedience of anyone, and is willing to accept favour from any insignificant person, as soon as he sees the probability of attaining his objective through his means, even if that person is the meanest and basest of all creation and even if the probability involved is something imaginary. And it is said that mere fancy is the proof of the greedy.

The servants of lust and mundane ambition have put on the shackles of slavery to carnal desire. They are ready to be slaves of anyone whom they know or imagine to be of worldly benefit to them. If verbally they declare themselves to be chaste and honourable, such lip service to honour is mere deception, for their words and deeds contradict such a declaration. This servility and captivity(imprisonment) is a thing which always causes man to undergo suffering, pain, dishonour and distress. Hence a man with a sense of honour and dignity should seriously strive to cleanse himself of this abomination by all means and deliver himself from this bondage. Such purification and emancipation can only be attained through a fundamental treatment, which takes place through curative knowledge and action.

As to curative action, it consists of religious exercises and opposition to the carnal self. Over a period of time these free the soul from excessive love of the world and the pursuit of carnal lust and desire, until it becomes accustomed to virtues and moral excellences. As to curative knowledge, it lies in making oneself understand and causing this to enter into his heart that other creatures are as weak, needy, dependent and impoverished as himself. He should tell his heart, "Since all other creatures are, like me, dependent, in matters big and small, on Him Who is absolutely Able and Powerful, they are not capable of fulfilling anyone's needs. They are too insignificant to deserve the soul's attention or the heart's humbleness. The same Powerful Being that has bestowed honour, dignity and riches upon them is capable of bestowing these on anybody. In fact, it is a matter of shame that man should submit so much to dishonour and indignity for the sake of his belly and his lusts as to accept the favour of an insignificant, impoverished, powerless and lowly creature devoid of wisdom and vision. If at all you should seek anyone's favour, then seek the favour of the Absolutely Self-Sufficient, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, for if you pay attention to His sacred Essence and make your heart humble in His presence, that will liberate you from both the worlds and emancipate you from the servitude of creatures, as it has been said: [3]

That is, the inner, invaluable essence of servitude to God is freedom and lordship. Thus servitude to God, attention to the unique focus of all being, and subjugation of all powers and dominations to the Sovereignty of God create such a state in the devotee's heart that he comes to wield power and kingdom over all the worlds. His spirit rises to such heights of sublimity that he does not pay obeisance to anyone except the Sacred Divine Essence, and even if, accidentally, he should be under the domination and power of anyone, that does not shake(vibrate) his heart, which preserves its independence and freedom, as in the case of Joseph (A) and Luqman (A) whose apparent subservience and servitude did not harm their free and freedom-seeking character. And there may be many a powerful despot and king, who having no trace of inner freedom, dignity and honour in their character, are base servants and obedient slaves of lust and carnal desire and who obsequiously ingratiate themselves to creatures.

Al-'Imam `Ali ibn al-Husayn (A) is reported to have said in the course of a discourse:

I am ashamed to ask anything of worldly things from their Creator, so how can I seek them from creatures like myself?[4]

My dear, if you are not ashamed of seeking the world, at least don't ask for it of weak creatures like yourself. Do understand that creatures have no power to do anyone any worldly good. I admit that you might have succeeded in attracting someone's attention through a thousand indignity and cajolery, but his will has no effect in the kingdom of God and no one has any role in the dominion of the King of kings. Hence do not degrade yourself so much by flattering insignificant creatures for the sake of a passing world and for passing and paltry desires. Don't forget your Lord and preserve your freedom. Remove the shackles of servitude and captivity(custody) and never forget Him under any circumstance, for, as stated in the noble tradition:

The freeman is free in all circumstances.

Let it be known to you that contentment comes from the heart and the absence of neediness is a spiritual state, unrelated to external matters that lie outside the human self. I have myself seen certain persons amongst rich and wealthy classes who say thins which no honourable poor man would say and whose statements are shameful. The hearts of those wretches were covered by the dusts of dishonour and destitution. The Jews, who, in proportion to their number, are the richest and wealthiest of all people on the earth, have faces that manifest debasement, poverty, indigence, beggarliness, hunger and wretchedness. They spend all their lives in hardship, indignity, destitution and squalor. This is nothing but their inner poverty and spiritual abasement.

I have seen amongst pious and darvish-like persons some individuals whose hearts are so magnanimously free of want and need that they look at the entire world with indifference and consider none except the Sacred Essence of God Almighty as deserving of making a request. You too study carefully the conditions of worldly and ambitious people and you will find that their lack of self-respect and their degradation in flattering others is greater than that of others and their obsequiousness in front of people is greater. Those (pseudo mystic masters) who are in pursuit of disciples and claim to guide others, suffer indignities and put up with degrading flattery and ingratiation for some day's satisfaction of their carnal lusts. The heart of the seeker of disciples and adherents is humbler in front of the disciple than that of the latter in front of him. This is because of the difference in the character of their respect for one another. While the disciple's humbleness and affection is of a spiritual and godly character, the master's affection has a mundane and satanic character:

These that have been mentioned are the worldly forms of these evils and indignities. But were the curtains to rise, the real spiritual forms of these servitudes, bondages and chains of carnal lusts and desires will reveal themselves. Perhaps the seventy-cubit chain, of which God Almighty has informed us, a chain with which we shall be shackled and bound in that world, is the Hereafterly form of this very servitude and subjugation to the domination of Passion and Anger. And God Almighty declares:

And they shall find all they wrought present .... (18:49)

And He also says:

(God charges no soul save to its capacity;) standing to its account is what it has earned, and against its account what it has merited.(2:286)

That is, that which we obtain in the other world is a form of our own deeds.

Therefore, break away the lengthy chains of lust and desire. Remove the locks that bar the heart's entrance and set yourself free from bondage. Live like a free human being in this world so that you may be free in the other world; otherwise, you will encounter there the intolerable Hereafterly form of this bondage. The hearts of the saints of God, despite their absolute and total freedom from bondage, were so much dreadful of the final outcome and so much full of lamentations that it amazes all minds. I am aware that the matters mentioned in these pages are of a common and repetitive(monotonous) character. However, there is nothing wrong(amiss) in such repetition, for constant reminding of the self and repetition of the truth is a desirable thing. This is why repetition has been considered desirable in prayers, supplications, worship and rituals. The main purpose is to accustom the self by means of repetitive(dull) exercises.

My dear, don't be deluded; understand that as long as man remains in the bondage of the carnal self and its desires and as long as the lengthy chains of Passion and Anger are around his neck, he cannot attain to any of the spiritual stations; the inward authority of the soul and the domination of its higher will shall not manifest itself. Also, the station of spiritual independence and dignity, which is one of the highest of spiritual stations, shall not be realized. Rather, this bondage and slavery restrains man from revolting against the authority of the carnal self. And when the authority of the carnal self and Satan becomes consolidated in the inward realm and all the faculties of the self become their obedient slaves, becoming submissive(meek) and humble in front of them, they do not remain gorged with mere sins. Little by little, they draw man from minor to major sins and from there to weakening of beliefs, from there to darkening of the intellect, from there to the constricted path of denial and contestation (of the truth), and from there to the hostility and enmity of the prophets and the awliya'. Throughout these stages, the self, which is their slave and under their domination, cannot disobey them. At last this obedience and captivity becomes so severe that it may take man to the most dangerous point.

Hence, the intelligent man with sympathy for himself must try by all means to liberate himself from this slavery, and as long as there is opportunity and his powers are intact and his life, health and youth are there and his faculties have not been totally subjugated (by Satan and the carnal self), he must rise to undertake this task. For some time he must exercise vigilance over himself, study his own inner states, reflect about the conditions of those who have passed away and faced an evil fate(destiny), and make his heart understand the passing character of worldly life. He must awaken his heart and inform it of the truth narrated from the Holy Prophet (S) who said:

The world is the farm of the Hereafter. [5]

That is, if we do not sow the seeds of righteous deeds in the few days of our life here, the opportunity will be lost for ever. When we reach the threshold of the other world and death seizes us, deeds come to an end., hopes are extinguished. If, God forbid, we continue to remain in the slavery of lusts and the captivity( of various carnal desires until the Angel of Death arrives, it is possible that Satan may achieve his ultimate objective of wresting away our faith. He may treat us in such a fashion and metamorphose our hearts to such an extent that we may depart from the world as enemies of God and His prophets and awliya'. If that happens, God knows what calamities, what darkness and what terrors await us.

So, O base self! O negligent heart! Awake from thy sleep and arise to confront this enemy who for years has subdued you and made a captive of you, who drags you whenever he wants and commands you to perform every ugly and destructive deed! Arise and bust these bonds! Sever these chains! Seek thy freedom and throw away(get rid off) this disgrace and indignity. Wear the girdle of servitude to God, the Almighty and the Glorious, that you may be free from every kind of servitude and slavery, that you may attain to the absolute kingdom of God in both the worlds.

My dear, although this world - being the believer's prison - is not the abode of Divine award and the place of the manifestation of God's kingdom, but should you come out(loom) from the captivity(detention) of the carnal self and submit to the servitude of God, make your heart a true monotheist and clear the dusts of plurality from the mirror of the spirit, and turn your heart's attention to the focal point of Absolute Perfection, you will witness its effects in this world itself and your heart will attain such an expanse that it will become the realm of the manifestation of God's total sovereignty, thus becoming greater than all the worlds. Hence He has said:

My earth and My heaven do not contain Me, but I am contained in the heart of my faithful slave. [6]

Such richness and contentment will then pervade your heart that all the outward and inward realms will become worthless in your eyes and your will, will become so mighty that it shall not attach itself to the corporeal and the celestial realms; rather it will not even consider them worthy of itself.

You have watched the bird's flight;

But should you remove the shackles of lust,

You will witness the flight of man.

  

 

Sabr, the Outcome of Freedom from Lust:

One of the great results and precious fruits of this freedom and emancipation from servitude to the carnal self is patience in calamities and misfortunes. Now it remains for us to explain briefly the meaning of sabr, the kinds of its fruits and its relation to freedom.

As defined by the researcher of the righteous sect, the explorer of the subtleties of the confirmed creed, the perfect in knowledge and deed, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi - may God sanctify his holy spirit(phantom) - sabr means restraining the self from agitation when confronted with undesirables. And the famous, confirmed `arif (Khwajah `Abd Allah al-'Ansari), says in Manazil al-sa'irin:

Sabr means restraining the self from complaint about hidden anguish.

And let it be known to you that sabr has been considered as one of the stations of those in the middle group(mutawassitun), for as long as the self regards misfortunes and calamities as detestable and feels inward anguish on their account, its marifah is deficient. Thus the station of rida in regard to Divine destiny(kismet) and satisfaction at the turning up of misfortunes represents a higher station, although we consider this also to be one of the stations pertaining to the mutawassitun. So also sabr in regard to abstinence from sins and in regard to fulfilment of duties (ta'at) is also related to deficient knowledge of the secrets of ibadat and the Hereafterly forms of sin and obedience. For if one were to understand the reality of ibadah and to believe in the purgatorial forms of worships and sins, sabr in regard to these has no meaning for him. Rather, the contrary becomes true here, and if a joy or comfort causes him to neglect worship or commit a sin, they (such joys and comforts) become detestable for him and his inward anguish becomes greater than that of those who bear misfortunes and calamities patiently.

The righteous servant and the knower of the duties of servitude, the possessor of noble stations and miraculous characteristics, 'Ali ibn 'Tawus - may God sanctify his spirit - is narrated to celebrate the first day of his becomingmukallaf. He gave feasts and festivated in commemoration of that day, for God, the Blessed and the Supreme, had blessed him with the permission to perform duties on that day. Can anyone say that that sublime spirit exercised sabr in regard to worship and duties considering them as inwardly unwelcome? What a difference between us and those obedient servants of God! We think that God Almighty has burdened us with duties; we consider them troublesome and view them as a botheration. If one of us attempts to offer his prayer at the outset of its time, he says that it is better to be done with it and the sooner one relieves oneself the better! All our misfortunes are due to ignorance and foolishness and on account of the lack or absence of faith.

In any case, sabr is concealed anguish. And that which has been said about the great prophets and the Righteous Imams - who have been characterized with sabr - that could mean forbearance in regard to physical sufferings, which are painful as a matter of human nature; or it could mean sabr in regard to separation from the Beloved, which is one of the great stations of the lovers --and to this we shall return later. Otherwise, sabr in regard to obedience or misfortune or sin is not only inapplicable in regard to them but also in regard to their followers (shi'ah).

The famous `arif `Abd al-Razzaq al-Kashani, in Sharh Manazil al sa'irin, says:

The intent of the Shaykh, when he says that sabr means abstinence from complaint, is complaining to creatures. Otherwise, complaining to God Almighty and beseeching Him for relief is not opposed to sabr. Hadrat Ayyub complained to God and said:

Behold, Satan has visited me with weariness and chastisement. (38:41)

And God yet praises him, saying:

Surely We found him. a steadfast man. How excellent a servant he was! He was penitent. (38:44)

And Hadrat Ya'qub (Jacob) said:

I make complaint of my anguish and my sorrow unto God, (12:86)

although he was one of the forebearing. Rather, to quit complaining to God is a manifestation of the hardening (of the heart) and a sign of grudgefulness.

The accounts of the lives of the great prophets and the Infallible Imams - upon all of whom be God's benedictions- reveal that although their stations were over and above the stations of sabr, rida and taslim (surrender), they never stopped supplicating lamenting and confessing their impotence before the Worshipped One. They expressed their needs to God Almighty and this is not contrary to their spiritual stations. Rather, remembering God, cherishing the intimacy of solitude with the Beloved, and expression of servitude and humility in front of His absolute perfection and greatness is the ultimate end of the hopes of the mystics (`arifun) and the final destination of the journey of the wayfarers (salikun).

The Results of Sabr:

You should know that sabr produces many results, among which is the soul's training and discipline. If a human being bears patiently with misfortunes and calamities for some time, if he seriously endures the hardships entailed by worship and rites and the bitterness arising from the renunciation of carnal pleasures, and if he does all this for the sake of obedience to his Lord and Provider, his soul gradually becomes accustomed to these things. Then it becomes disciplined(tamed) and docile and relinquishes its earlier recalcitrance. To bear with hardships and difficulties becomes an easy thing for it. There develops within it an enduring luminous faculty through which he can rise over the station ofsabr to reach other higher spiritual stations. Sabr in regard to sins is the source of the self's taqwa. Sabr in regard to obedience (ta'at) is the source of intimacy with God. And sabr in misfortunes is the source of rids or contentment with Divine destiny(kismet) and decrees. These are the stations of the faithful (ahl al- iman) or rather those of the gnostics (ahl al-`irfan). In the noble traditions of the Infallible Ahl al-Bayt we find forceful emphasis on sabr. The following is a tradition of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) from the noble al-Kafi, in which the Imam says:

Verily, sabr is to faith what the head is to the body. The body perishes without the head, and so also when sabr goes faith also disappears? [7]

In another tradition whose isnad reaches al-'Imam al-Sajjad (A), he is reported to have stated:

Verily, sabr is to faith what the head is to the body: one who has no sabr has no faith .[8]

There are many traditions relating to this topic and we will mention some of them later in relevance with the context.

Sabr is the key to the gates of felicity and the main means of deliverance from mortal perils. Sabr makes man bear calamities with ease and face difficulties with composure. It strengthens the will and the power of resolution. It brings independence to the dominion of the soul. Anguish and worry(anxiety) on the other hand, aside from their shameful character, are symptoms of the soul's weakness. They deprive one's being of its stability, weaken the determination, and enfeeble the intellect. The informed researcher Khwajah Naqir al-Din al-Tusi - may God sanctify his soul - states:

Sabr restrains the inner being from anguish, the tongue from complaint and the bodily members from untoward movements.

On the contrary, the inward being of the impatient person is full of anxiety and alarm. His heart is full of tremors and shaky, and this. is itself the greatest calamity that can befall a human being and deprive him of peace. But sabrdiminishes misfortune and makes the heart overcome hardship and assists the will to overpower calamities. In the same way, the impatient person complains of his troubles to everyone, and this, aside from causing disrepute among people who look down upon him as a weakling of instable character, makes him lose his standing in the court of the Holy Lord and in front of His angels. What faith in God and what surrender to the Holy Lord has the servant who cannot bear an adversity that visits him from his Beloved, the Absolute, after having received thousands upon thousands of His bounties and while being immersed in the sea of His favour, and opens his mouth in front of people to complain as soon as an adversity strikes him? So it is right if it is said that one who has no sabr has no faith.

If you have faith in your Lord and believe all the affairs to lie in His mighty hands, if you believe none else to have any say in the matters, of course you will not complain of the hardships of life and the adversities that strike you before God Almighty. Rather you will accept them willingly and thank Him gratefully for His bounties. Hence that inner agitation, those plaintive utterances, those unbecoming bodily movements - all these bear testimony to our lack of faith. As long as we find ourselves amid favours, we are thankful, with a gratefulness that is formal and lacking inner substance, a thankfulness that is offered in greed of further favours. However, when a tragedy occurs or a pain or disease strikes us, we take our complaints against the Blessed and the Almighty Lord in front of the creatures. With a plaintive tongue and a tone brimming with taunts and cynicism, we complain about Him to all and sundry. Gradually those complaints, anxieties and misgivings sow the seeds of hostility towards God and His decrees inside the self. Slowly they sprout and grow, making the once passing feeling into an enduring trait. Thereupon, God forbid, the form of one's inward being assumes the form of enmity towards God and His ordainments. When that happens, things go out of one's control and one is no longer able to check his thoughts and feelings. His inward and outward being becomes coloured with the hostility towards God Almighty, and he departs from this world to face eternal wretchedness and gloom, with a spirit infused with the enmity and hatred of the Lord of Bounties. I seek refuge in God from the evil of a disastrous end and from a provisional faith (iman mustawda`). Hence it has been truly said that when sabr goes faith also departs.

And so, my dear, the matter is of great importance and the road is full of perils. Muster all the strength at your command and be patient and forbearing throughout the ups and downs of life. With manly courage stand against adversities and calamities. Make your self understand that agitation and anguish, aside from involving a great shame by themselves, are futile in confrontation with sufferings and calamities. No purpose is served by complaining about the irresistible decrees and inevitable ordainments of God in front of weak and powerless creatures, as pointed out by the following noble tradition from al-Kafi:

Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni reports with his chain of transmitters from Sama'ah ibn Mihran from al-'Imam al-Kazim (A) that the Imam said to him, "What stopped you from going for hajj?" Sama'ah says that he replied, "May I be your ransom, a big debt has fallen upon me and I have lost my property. However, the debt that lies upon me weighed more heavily upon me than the loss of property. Had it not been for one of our companions, I could not have come out(loomed) of it." The Imam said, "If you are patient, you will be the object of envy, and if you don't God will enforce His decrees regardless of your pleasure or displeasure." [9]

Thus we know that anxiety(worry) and anguish are not only futile, they are capable of inflicting terrible(awful) injuries and are followed by fatal consequences destructive to faith. On the other hand, sabr, forbearance and restraint bring fair, plentiful rewards and have sublime and beautiful forms in the world of Barzakh. This is stated at the end of the noble tradition expounded by us:

Thus the ultimate result of qabr is good in this world - as known from the example of Hadrat Yusuf (A) - and it is the cause of reward in the Hereafter. In another noble tradition of al-Kafi, whose sanad goes up to Abu Hamzah al-Thumali - may God's mercy be upon him -al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) is reported to have said:Abu Hamzah says: "Abu `Abd Allah said: `Whoever of the believers that bears patiently with a tribulation that befalls him, has the reward of a thousand martyrs.' " [10]

There are many traditions relating to this subject and we will mention some of them in the following section. However, as to that which was said above that sabr has a beautiful purgatorial form, this is mentioned - apart from the demonstrative proofs confirming it - in the following tradition of the noble al-Kafi from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

The Imam (A) said: "When the believer enters his grave, salat is on his right hand, zakat on his left, virtue faces him, with sabr taking him under its shelter. When the two angels encharged with questioning enter upon him, sabr says tosalat, zakat and virtue, `Take care of your companion, and if you fail to assist him I will take care of him myself.' " [11]

The Degrees and Levels of Sabr:

Let it be known to you that, as indicated by the noble traditions, there are various degrees and levels of sabr, and its reward and merit vary in accordance with its degree and level. This is revealed by the following tradition of the noble al-Kafi narrated by the Master of the God-fearing, Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (A) from the Holy Prophet (S):

'Ali (A) said, "The Messenger of Allah said, 'Sabr Is of three kinds: sabr at the time of affliction, sabr in regard to obedience, and sabr In regard to disobedience. One who bears patiently with affliction, resisting it with a fair consolation, God writes for him three hundred degrees (of sublimity), the elevation of one degree over another being like the distance between earth and heavens. And one who is patient in regard to obedience, God writes for him six hundred degrees (of sublimity), the elevation of one degree over another being like the distance between the earth's depths and the Throne (al-'arsh). And one who is patient in regard to disobedience, God writes for him nine hundred degrees (of sublimity), the elevation of one degree over another being like the distance between the earth's depths and the furthest frontiers of the Throne: " [12]

This noble tradition reveals that sabr in regard to disobedience is superior to the other levels of sabr, for it not only possesses greater number of degrees but also the range between its degrees is greater than those of the other kinds. It also shows that the extent of Paradise is much greater than what can come into our imagination, for our vision is limited and cramped. That which has been said as a description of Paradise that:

...And a Garden the breadth whereof is as the breadth of heaven and earth .... (57:21)

perhaps refers to the Paradise of deeds. That which has been referred to here in this noble tradition is the Paradise of character and the criterion in the Paradise of character is the strength and perfection of will. Hence its extent should not be cramped within any limits. Some have stated that that which has been meant here is height. That is, it is possibly equal in breadth (to the Paradise of deeds) and different in height. But this appears to be remote, for evidently `breadth' here refers to extent not to breadth as opposed to length, for `breadth' in reference to heaven and earth also has no meaning when taken in the ordinary sense of something opposed to length, although they do have `breadth' in the sense of a `second dimension' in the terminology of natural philosophers. The Book of God, however, does not speak in accordance with any specific terminology.

The noble al-Kafi records the following tradition of the Prophet (S) with a chain of narration reaching al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

The Imam (A) said: "The Messenger of Allah (S) said, `A time will come upon the people wherein political authority will not be attainable without bloodshed and tyranny, nor wealth without usurpation and stinginess, nor affection without discarding religion and pursuing lust and desire. Whoever lives in such times and bears patiently with poverty despite possessing the capacity to become rich (illegitimately), and bears up with hostility despite being capable of acquiring favour and affection, and bears with humiliation despite possessing the capacity to honour, God will give him the reward of fifty truthful ones, of those who confirmed me.' " [13]

Something close to this has been said in another tradition from Amir al Mu'minin (A) and there are many traditions relating to this theme. The few which have been quoted here are sufficient for our purpose.

The `Urafa's Degrees of Sabr:

Let it be known to you that that which has been said hitherto relates to the condition of ordinary people and themutawassitun. We stated at the beginning of this exposition that sabr has been considered as something pertaining to the stations of the mutawassitun. But Sabr hays other levels which belong to the wayfarers of the path of perfection and the awliya'. One of such levels of sabr is sabr fi Allah (Sabr in God), and it means steadfastness (thabat) in spiritual endeavour (mujahadah) and abstinence from objects of love and attraction. Rather it means the renunciation of selfhood in the path of the Beloved. This stage belongs to the wayfarers (ahl al-suluk). Another level is that of sabr ma`a Allah (sabr with God). It belongs to those blessed with the Presence and the Beatific vision, which comes at the time of exit from the garment of manhood, and freedom from the curtains of deeds and attributes, and irradiation upon the heart of the lights of the Names and Attributes, and entry into the state of intimacy and awe and safeguarding of the self against changing from colour to colour and absence from the station of intimacy and vision.

Another level is that of sabr `an Allah (sabr from God) which pertains to the stations of lovers of God and piners for Him, of those blessed with epiphany (ahl al-shuhud wa al-`ayan) at the time of returning to their own world, the world of plurality and sobriety (after intoxication with God). This is the hardest and the most difficult of the stations, and to it has referred the Master of the Wayfarers, the Commander of the Faithful, and the Leader of the Perfect (i.e. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (A) in the noble Du`a' Kumayl:

O my God, my Master and my Lord! Even if I were able to endure Thy chastisement, how shall I bear Thy separation?!

The following is narrated about al-Shibli:

It is narrated that a youth from among the Lovers questioned al-Shibli about sabr. "Which kind of sabr is the hardest?" He asked. "The sabr for God," replied al-Shibli. "No," said the youth. "The sabr by God," answered al-Shibli. "No," said the youth. "The sabr over God," said al-Shibli. "No," said the youth again. "The sabr in God," said al-Shibli. "No," came the answer. "The sabr with God?" said al Shibii, and the youth said "No," again. "Woe to you, which one is it?" said al-Shibli, exasperated. "The sabr from God," came the answer. Al-Shibli gave a cry and swooned. [14]

Another level is that of sabr bi Allah, which is for those blessed with stability and steadfastness, which is attained after the state of sobriety and endurance with God (baqa' bi Allah) and after moulding oneself in accordance with Divine norms(takhalluq bi akhlaq Allah). It is something attained by none except the perfect, and since we have nothing to partake of those stations, to elaborate further about these matters is not appropriate for these pages.

And Praise is God's at the beginning and the end, and may God's benedictions be upon Muhammad and, his immaculate Progeny.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, ii, Kitab al- iman wa al-kufr, bab al-sabr, 128. hadith No. 6.

[2]. Ibn al-'Athir, al-Nihayah, ii, 128.

[3]. Misbah al-Shariah, bab 100.

[4]. Ilal al-shari'ah, i, 165; Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, x, 29.

[5]. Ihya' al-ulum, iv, 14.

[6]. Ghwali al-lia'ili, iv, 7.

[7]. Usul al-Kafi, ii, bab al-sabr, 128, hadith No. 2.

[8]. Ibid., hadith No. 3.

[9]. Ibid., hadith No. 10.

[10]. Ibid.. hadith No. 17.

[11]. Ibid., hadith No. 8.

[12]. Ibid., hadith No. 15.

[13]. Ibid., hadith No. 12.

[14]. Sharh Manazil al-sa'irin, bab al-sabr, 88. No.28.

 

You should know that shukr for the inward and outward bounties of God Almighty is one of the obligatory duties of servanthood and creaturehood, which everyone must attempt to fulfil to the extent of his capacity, although no creature can adequately fulfil its obligation of thanking God Almighty. The ultimate limit of thankfulness is the knowledge of the incapacity to satisfy it fully, in the same way as the ultimate limit of servanthood is the realization of the incapacity of fulfilling its demands - and hence the Noble Messenger, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, confessed to his incapacity, although none of the existents has attempted to discharge the duties of servanthood and gratitude to the extent of that holy master -because the perfection or inadequacy of gratitude is subject to the gnosis of the Munim and the knowledge of His bounties. (Since this gnosis and knowledge are never complete), no one can satisfy the rights of gratitude.

The servant becomes fully thankful (shakur) when he knows the relation of creation to the Creator, and has gnosis of the entire spread of Divine beneficence, from its beginning to end, of the interrelations of the bounties with each other as well as of the beginning and end of the stream of existence in its true reality. And this gnosis is not attainable for anyone except the elect of the awliya', the noblest and best of whom is the sacred essence of the Seal of Prophethood, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny. All others are devoid of some or rather most of those stations. Rather, as long as the reality of Divine efficacy does not make an imprint on the devotee's heart and as long as he does not attain conviction that

There is no efficient agency in the realm of existence except Allah,

the darkness and obfuscations of shirk and doubt (shakk) remain in his heart and he cannot thank God as he should. One whose gaze(stare) is fixed(stagnant) on causes and means and one who considers the efficacy of existents to be independent, does not relate the bounties to the Lord of bounty, and here lie the roots of ingratitude to God Almighty. Such a one has carved out idols, each of which he considers to be efficient. At times he relates actions to his own efficacy and even considers himself as having control over events and affairs. At times he considers the natural aspects of the world of existence as being efficient, and at times he relates the bounties to their apparent dispensers while considering God to be bereft of any efficacy, believing God's hands to be fettered, whereas:

Fettered are their hands, and they are cursed for what they have said (5:64).

God's dispensing hands are free and the entire realm of being in reality belongs to Him and no other has any role in it. Rather, the entire universe is the manifestation of His power and bounteousness and His beneficence envelopes everything. All bounties are from Him and no one has any bounty of his own that he may be its provider. Rather, the realm of existence owes its being to Him, and others have no (independent) being so that anything may be attributed to be them. However, the eyes are blind, the ears are deaf and the hearts have curtains drawn upon them.

I want a vision that may pierce the (curtain of) causes.

How long shall these dead hearts of ours remain ungrateful toward God's bounties, and relate them to the world, its circumstances and persons? These attachments and attentions amount to ingratitude towards the bounteousness of the Sacred Essence and to Its concealing grace. This shows that fulfillment of the demands of gratitude is not everyone's job, and that Sacred Divine Essence. the Glorious and the Exalted, has declared: That is, there are few servantswho have adequate gnosis of God's bounties or know them as they deserve to be known. And, therefore, there are few servants who stand up to fulfil the duties of gratitude.

The Different Levels of Shukr:

And it should be known that even as the levels of knowledge of the servants of God are different, so also are their levels of thankfulness. The levels of gratitude are also different because shukr is the praise of the Provider for His bounties. Thus the outward kinds of bounties require one kind of gratitude and the inward bounties a gratitude of another kind. If the bounty is of the category of knowledge and gnosis, its shukr is of one kind, and if it is of the category of the irradiation of Divine Names it is of another kind, and if of the category of the irradiation of the Divine Essence, it is of yet another kind. And since all the categories and levels of bounties are enjoyed only by a few of His servants, the effort to fulfil the duties of gratitude at all levels is only possible for a few. Those being the sincere(khullas) awliya', who, in their being, encompass the entire range and levels of being (jami' jami'-e hadarat), being the limit of all limits (barzakh-e barazikh), and encompasses all the exoteric and esoteric levels. Accordingly, their thanksgiving (shukr) is accomplished through all the apparent, inward, and the inmost tongues.

Although shukr has been said to be one of the stations pertaining to the common people because of its proximity to the claim to the requital of the Provider - and this is considered to be irreverence - however, such a proximity exists only for ethers than the awliya', especially the perfect (kummal) among them, who encompass the full range of being and possess the station of unity and plurality. Therefore, the adept gnostic Khwajah `Abd Allah Ansari, who, although he states that shukr is one of the stations of the common people, adds:

That is, the third degree of shukr lies there where the servant does not see anything except the beauty of the Mun'im,being immersed in His beauty. That consists of three stations. First, he observes Him as the humble slave contemplates his master. In this state, unaware of himself in His presence, he is fully immersed in reverence, not setting any worth upon himself. When in this state of humility, if he is bestowed any bounty, he values it greatly, considering himself as insignificant and unworthy of it. Second, his observation is that of a lover observing his beloved. In this state he is immersed in the beauty of the Beloved and whatever he receives from Him, cherishing it, though it be affliction and hardship. Third, he observes Him without the limitations of the Names, or rather has the epiphany of the Essence itself. In this state he forgets himself and others and sees nothing but the Divine Essence, and is conscious neither of any bounty nor adversity.

This shows that the first stage in all the stations of the wayfarers is the one tread by the common people, and the ultimate stages in all the stations pertain exclusively to the sincere (khullas) or rather to the perfect (kummal) (of theawliya').

The Station of Shukr in Hadith:

We shall complete this section with the mention of some traditions relating to shukr.

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni narrates with his isnad from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he said: "'The Messenger of Allah, may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, said: 'One who takes food with gratitude has a reward like the one who fasts exercising vigilance over himself. The healthy person grateful for his health has a reward like the one who bears his (bodily) afflictions patiently. And one who gives thankfully has a reward similar to the one who bears his deprivation with continence.' [18]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from 'Ubayd Allah ibn al-Walid that he said: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah (A) say: 'There are three things in whose presence nothing can harm one: prayer in affliction, seeking God's forgiveness for one's sins, and thanksgiving for God's favours.' " [l9]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu Basir that Abu 'Abd Allah (A) said: "Verily one of you drinks water and God assigns paradise to him on that account." Then he (A) added: "Verily, one who takes the vessel (containing water), brings it to his mouth, then takes God's Name, then drinks from it, then draws it away while desiring it, then praises God, then drinks from it again, then takes it away while he desires it, praises God, then drinks from it again, then sets it aside and praises God, God, Almighty and Glorious, makes the paradise obligatory for him." [20]

Praise of God is the purveyer of gratitude, and, as has been stated in many traditions, one who says "Al-hamdu lillah' (All praise is God's) has offered his thanks to God. Al-Kulayni, in the noble al-Kafi, narrates this tradition through his isnad from `Umar ibn Yazid:

'Umar ibn Yazid says: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allih (A) say: The (adequate mode of) thanksgiving for all favours, however great they may be, is that you praise God, the Almighty and the Glorious, on their account.' " [21]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu 'Abd Allih (A) that he said: "Gratitude for God's gifts lies in abstaining from what He has made unlawful. One's thanksgiving is complete when one says: 'Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.' " [22]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Hammad ibn 'Uthman that he said: "Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A)once came out of the mosque to find his mount missing. Thereupon the Imam (A) said: 'Should God return it to me, I will thank Him as He deserves to be thanked.' It was not long before the animal was brought to him. Thereat, the Imam (A) said: 'Al-hamdu lillah.' Someone said to him: 'May I be made your ransom, didn't you say that you will thank God as He deserves to be thanked? Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said to him: 'Didn't you hear me say 'Al-hamdu lillah?' " [23]

This tradition shows that the praise of God is the best of the ways of oral thanksgiving. Among the effects of thanksgiving is increase in ni'mah, as mentioned unambiguously in the Noble Scripture:

if you are thankful, surely I will increase you .... (19:7)

And the noble al-Kafi has recorded this mustanad tradition of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) in this regard:

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "One who has been given thankfulness has been also given increase (in ni'mah) Allah,Almighty and Glorious, says: 'If you are thankful, surely I will increase you." [24]

Conclusion

You should know that `A'ishah had imagined that the motive behind worship was confined to the fear(desperation) of punishment or the effacement of sins. She had imagined that the worship of the Noble Prophet, upon whom and whose progeny be God's peace and benedictions, was like the worship of other people. Therefore she had wondered as to why the Prophet (S) took so much pains. This thought was as much due to her ignorance of the station of worship and servanthood as due to the ignorance of the station of prophethood and messengerhood. She did not know that the worship of slaves and hirelings was foreign to the sacred station of that master. The majesty of the Lord and gratitude for His unlimited bounties had made  comfort and ease foreign to his holy being. Rather, the worship of the sincereawliya' is the stage of the boundless irradiations of the Beloved, as pointed out in the prayer of the heavenly ascent. The holy awliya', upon whom be peace, while being absorbed in the beauty and glory of the Beloved and effaced in His attributes and Essence, are never negligent of any of the stages of servanthood. Their bodily movements are subject to their spiritual stirrings, suffused with love, which are subject to the quality of the manifestation of the Beloved's beauty. However, to satisfy someone like `A'ishah it is not possible to give any but a perfunctory explanation. Hence, the Prophet (S) cramped himself to mentioning one of the lower stations so as to make her understand that the worship of that master was not aimed at such base purposes. And all praise is God's.

* * *

'Ali ibn Ibrahim, in his tafsir, reports with his isnad from Abu Ja'far (A) and Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that they said: "The Messenger of Allah (S) used to pray while standing on his toes, until his feet became swollen. Thereupon Allah, Blessed and Exalted, sent down the verse: 'Taha...' (20:1-2) It meant: "O Muhammad! We have not sent down the Qur'an upon thee to put thee to hardship." [25]

Al-Saduq in Ma'ani al-'akhbar reports with his isnad from Sufyan al-Thawri from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that he said in the course of a long tradition: "As to Taha, it is one of the names of the Prophet, upon whom and whose progeny be God's peace and benedictions, and it means: 'O seeker of the Truth (talib al-Haqq) and the Guide towards it (al-hadi ilayh).' "[26]

And it has been narrated from Ibn `Abbas and others that Taha means `O Man'. It has been narrated from some Sunni scholars (`ammah) that Ta refers to the purity (taharah) of the Holy Prophet's heart and Ha refers to its receiving guidance (hidayah) towards God. And it has been said that Ta means the delight (tarab) felt by the inhabitants of paradise and Ha signifies the disgrace and degradation (hawan) felt by the inmates of hell. Al-Tabrisi, upon whom be God's mercy, says: "It has been narrated from al-Hasan that he would read (Ta ha) as Tah ) with fathah on the ta and sukun on the ha. Should this reading of his be correct, then it must originally have been ta, with the hamzah having changed to ha. Then the meaning of the verse becomes:

Take the earth under both of thy feet. " [27]

There is a severe disagreement about the significance of the isolated letters (al-huruf al-muqatta`ah) at the beginning of the Qur'anic surahs. That which seems more likely is that they are of the kind of secrets exchanged between lovers, of whose significance others do not partake. The conjectures advanced by some exegetes in this regard are mostly(mainly)  without any source. The tradition narrated by Sufyan al-Thawri also indicates their being secret symbols, and it is not very improbable that they relate to matters which lie beyond human comprehension. Through them God Almighty has addressed His elect, and there is nothing that is mutashabih (in the Qur'an) but that they know its interpretation. [28] Shaqa' and shaqawah (whose derivative tashqa occurs in 20:1) are antonyms of sa`adah (felicity) and mean hardship and trouble(nuisance). This is what al-Jawhari states:

Al-Tabrisi narrates this tradition in his al-'Ihtijaj:

Al-'Imam Muse ibn Ja'far (A) narrates from his ancestors (A) that Amir al Mu'minin (A) said: "For ten years the Messenger of Allah, may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, stood on his toes (in his prayers) until his feet became swollen and his face turned yellowish. He would stand all the night until he was reproached in this regard. God Almighty said to him: 'Taha, We have not sent down the Qur'an upon you to cause you hardship'. That is, We have sent it down upon you that you may be felicitous and happy thereby.' "

And it has been narrated from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that the Prophet (S) would heave(lurch) one of his blessed feet during worship in order to make it harder upon himself. 'Thereat God Almighty sent down this noble verse. Some exegetes have opined that this noble verse is intended as an answer to the polytheists who said that the Prophet had fallen into hardship by abandoning their faith.

The perfect `arif Shahabadi, may his shadow endure, used to say:

After some time that that blessed being (i.e. the Prophet) invited the people to his creed and it did not prove to be as effective as he wished, that master thought that perhaps there was something lacking in his call. Thereafter he devoted himself to austerities for a period of ten years, until his blessed feet became swollen. Then the noble verse came down: Don't subject yourself to hardship. You are pure, and a true guide. The defect is not in you but in the people, and that:

Thou guidest not whom thou likest, (but God guides whom He wills) .... (28:56)

In any case that which we infer from the noble verse is that the Prophet (S) used to devote himself to austerities and hardships, and this is what we understand on the whole from the sayings of the exegetes, although they differ regarding the exact character of those austerities. This should be an example and a lesson for the Ummah, especially for the learned who wish to call people to God. That blessed being, with his purity of heart and perfectness would subject himself to such austerities and pains until he was asked to relax by the noble verse sent down by the Sacred Divine Essence. And we, with all the gigantic burden of our sins and offences, are never mindful of our hereafter, resurrection and return, as if we have been guaranteed(ensured) immunity from punishment and security from hellfire! The reason of it is nothing but that the love of world has stuffed its cotton into our ears and we no longer listen to the words of the Prophets and the awliya'.

[1]. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr" "bab al-shukr," hadith no.2.

[2]. Bihar al- anwar, xvii, 76.

[3]. Ibid., xxiv, 1-9.

[4]. Ibid., xvi, 402.

[5]. Ibid, xv, 3 ff.

[6]. Al-Saduq, 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, i, 263.

[7]. Bihar al- anwar, xxvi, 247.

[8]. 'Ilm al-yaqin, i, 381.

[9]. Al-Saduq, Kitab al-tawhid, 150.

[10]. Al-Mufid, al- Amali, majlis no. 28, p. 245.

[11]. Al-Tabrisi, Majma' al-bayan, x, 505.

[12]. Bihar al-'anwar, xvii, 73-76, cf. 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, i, 202, bab 15.

[13]. Sahih Muslim, "kitabal-dhikr'," 41; al-Shaykh al-Bahai, al-'Arba'in, in the exposition of hadith no. 22, with the words, "hundred times" (mi'at marrah)

[14]. Safinat al-Bihar, ii, 322.

[15]. Tafsir Nur al-thaqalayn, v, 689.

[16]. Al-Raghib al-Isfahani, al-Mufradat fi gharib al-Qur'an, p. 265.

[17]. This is a summary of al-Ghazili's discourse from al-Fayd al-Kashani's al-Mahajjat al-bayda', vii, 144-149.

[18]. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr," "bab al-shukr," hadith no. l.

[19]. Ibid., hadith no.7.

[20]. Ibid., hadith no. 16.

[21]. Ibid., hadith no. 11.

[22]. Ibid., hadith no. 10.

[23]. Ibid., hadith no. 18.

[24]. Ibid., hadith no. 8.

[25]. Tafsir al-Qummi, ii, 58.

[26]. Ma'ani al-'akhbar, 22.

[27]. Al-Tabrisi, Majma' al-bayan; earlier to this command the Prophet (S) used to pray while standing on one foot.

[28]. This refers to verse 28:


source : GREATER SINS Shaheede Mehraab Ayatullah-ul-Uzma Al-Haaj Sayed Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi (r.a.)
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